It’s the second week of December and winter has set in, so has the fog. At Rannian border outpost on the Indo-Pak border, 25 km from Amritsar, the mercury sees a sharp dip with as the sun sets. An eerie silence descends as alert Border Security Force (BSF) personnel peer hard into the blinding fog to repulse any infiltration or smuggling attempt from the other side.
Though Pakistan normally targets the Punjab border to push in narcotics and fake currency notes, the Dinanagar terror attack on July 27, 2015, and intelligence inputs have put the BSF on high alert for infiltrators. Not only has the force increased its manpower along the border but also taken strategic measures to ensure an uneventful winter.
BSF DIG, Amritsar sector, Sumer Singh says: “Besides beefing up security, the laser alarms, cameras and traps are good enough to stun the intruder. Narcotics are a major challenge in Punjab but we do not rule out infiltration bids.” Senior BSF officials posted at the Punjab frontier headquarters in Jalandhar have been assigned duties to visit the 550-km border stretch that Punjab shares with Pakistan regularly. The Punjab stretch has been divided into four sectors in Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozepur and Abohar.
“Being on extra vigil is routine procedure for us, particularly with the onset of winter. The fog provides natural cover to intruders so we are prepared for any exigency. Officers have been directed to fan out in the field and share details regularly with the headquarters,” says Punjab BSF IG Anil Paliwal. The entire force is on standby in case Ops Alert is issued during the foggy season.
STUN THE ENEMY
Among the gadgets that the BSF has deployed along the border in Punjab are closed-circuit TV cameras and LED lights on observation towers, besides thermal imaging cameras, hand-held thermal imagers and laser alarms. Radars and sensors are also on the BSF’s priority list. Obstacles have been put up to catch the intruder unawares.
Senior personnel, particularly company commanders, have increased the frequency of visits to areas adjoining the fence to keep the morale high. The piping hot supply of tea in the freezing conditions comes as a respite for the sentinels.
Even if an intruder manages to sneak into the Indian side by dodging the forces, special teams have been posted to carry out patrolling to. “Special nakas have been put in place and special co-ordination teams with the local police have been formed to check the activities in possible hideouts or routes during winters. Our men also keep roaming in the villages in civil as well,” said a BSF official. Amritsar and Gurdaspur are more prone to such activities, as data available with BSF suggests: Smugglers generally take these routes to get to the villages and hide.
CHALLENGES ON PUNJAB BORDER
Punjab’s Gurdaspur and Ferozepur sectors have stretches of riverine belt of the Sutlej and Ravi, making it difficult to plug the gaps in the border. The tall grass and thick fog can blind even electronic gadgets, increasing the reliance on human judgement.
Another challenge the BSF faces is identifying smugglers, their accomplices and informers in border villages. It relies heavily on specific inputs.
The recent security breach involving a non-resident Indian driving his sports utility vehicle right through the border checks on the Attari-Wagah joint checkpost shows that the border can be vulnerable despite stringent checks.
The BSF personnel keep a close watch on truck movement at the checkpost. Hundreds of trucks cross the border to and from Pakistan daily but in the absence of full body truck scanners, checking is done manually.
(with inputs from Ravinder Vasudeva in Jalandhar)