BSF enters deeper into Bengal, Punjab and Assam
The Union home ministry has extended the areas over which the BSF has jurisdiction in Bengal, Punjab and Assam, giving it the powers of arrest, search and seizure in places up to 50km from the Pakistan and Bangladesh borders.
Punjab’s Congress chief minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, condemned the decision as “a direct attack on federalism” and his deputy Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa underlined that the Centre had not secured the state’s consent. The Bengal government had not reacted till late evening.
Earlier in these states, the BSF had jurisdiction only over a 15km-wide belt inside the borders. This range was 80km from the border in Gujarat, which the Centre has now reduced to 50km in the BJP-ruled state. In Rajasthan, it stays 50km as before.
In the northeastern states of Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur, and the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the BSF has jurisdiction across their territories.
Channi tweeted: “I strongly condemn the GoI’s unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision.”
The Shiromani Akali Dal too slammed the move “to hand over almost half of the state to the BSF” as “the imposition of the President’s rule through the back door in nearly half of Punjab”.
Senior home ministry officials declined comment on the reason behind the decision, conveyed in a notification on Monday.
Sources said Section 139 of the Border Security Force Act, 1968, empowers the Centre to notify the area and extent of the border force’s operational mandate from time to time.
“Revision of any order under Section 139 must be laid before each House of Parliament which can either modify or annul it,” a government official said.
A senior BSF official said the latest notification was issued because of a rise in smuggling and drug trafficking in the border areas of Bengal, Assam and Punjab.
“Now our personnel can carry out searches, seizures and arrests over a larger area in these three states,” the official said.
Asked why the BSF’s jurisdiction had been reduced in BJP-ruled Gujarat, where 3,000kg of heroin was seized on September 15 from the Adani-operated Mundra port in Kutch, the official declined comment.
Valued at Rs 21,000 crore, the drug haul has been described as the largest anywhere in the world in recent memory.
The border force has the powers to search, seize and arrest under various laws such as the Passport (Entry into India) Act, Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Customs Act, Foreigners Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.
According to the home ministry notification, the “amendment... establishes uniformity in defining the area within which Border Security Force can operate”.
Amarinder Singh, recently forced to resign as Punjab chief minister, supported the move. “We’re seeing more & more weapons & drugs being pushed by Pak-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF’s enhanced presence & powers will only make us stronger,” read a tweet by his media adviser.