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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

BSF to acquire 6 acres at Wagah to beautify retreat ceremony spot

Rajeev Bhaskar , Hindustan Times  Jalandhar, July 12, 2013
First Published: 19:13 IST(12/7/2013) | Last Updated: 19:15 IST(12/7/2013)

The Border Security Force (BSF) is all set to acquire another six acres of land at the Wagah border to turn it into a tourist hotspot by landscaping, constructing a museum and erecting a high-rise tower to enable tourists who flock the spot to witness the retreat ceremony on the Indo-Pak border to get a better view of Pakistan side.

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"The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has sanctioned the acquisition of six acres along with Wagah border so that the spot could be developed as a tourist spot for visitors who so far have been visiting it only in the evening hours to witness the retreat ceremony," BSF's Punjab Frontier inspector general (IG) Aditya Mishra told Hindustan Times.

The IG said that the acquisition process for the land identified on the left side of the ceremony spot along the Indo-Pak pillar, for which local farmers have demanded Rs. one crore per acre, would begin soon.

"Apart from a landscaped park, BSF museum along with an auditorium to show documentaries on the force guarding the nation's borders, apart from widening the border gates, are included in the expansion plan," he said. The ceremonial gate used for the retreat ceremony would be widened by six feet and sliding gates installed.

On expanding of the visitor's gallery, the IG said that a project of Rs. 17 crore had already been sanctioned to double the capacity to accommodate 7,000 spectators. "It has been observed that on weekends and holidays, 20,000 to 23,000 visitors come to witness the retreat ceremony. Once the spot is beautified, tourists would be able to enjoy their visit more," Mishra added.
The BSF IG said that 30 more jawans have been posted for the retreat ceremony as per a rotational policy so that no jawan was made to take part in the ceremonial lowering of flags for more than a year since it involved heavy stomping of feet that led to injuries to the lower limbs of personnel.

As for the mobile phone connectivity problem at the retreat ceremony spot, the IG said that the MHA had banned installation of mobile towers in a radius of 10 km due to security reasons.

"It was noticed that narcotics smugglers across the border communicated with their Indian conduits through SIM cards procured in Pakistan, which are operational even three km inside the Indian territory," the IG said and added that local and BSF authorities had written to the union ministry to allow construction of mobile towers in the border area to enable locals and tourists alike to stay connected with the world.

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