Row erupts as Centre widens BSF jurisdiction from 15km to 50km in Punjab
With the Centre increasing the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) in Punjab for seizure, search and arrest up to 50km from the international border with Pakistan, a row has erupted in the border districts.
Farmers, politicians and the Punjab Police officials have criticised the Centre’s move, many terming it a ‘direct attack’ on the federal structure of the country.
Six border districts in Punjab—Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Ferozepur and Fazilka—will be affected by the BSF’s wider jurisdiction for raids and arrests under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and the Indian Passports Act.
“Instead of increasing the BSF’s jurisdiction inside the Indian territory, the Centre should focus on making the border foolproof against flow of drugs, arms and ammunition from Pakistan. Even drones from across the border hover around without problem as the BSF lacks technology and manpower,” said Kabal Singh Muhawa, an active member of Punjab Border Area Kisan Welfare Society (PBAKWS) in Amritsar.
The society’s vice-president Surjit Singh Bhura said, “Farmers whose land is situated across the barbed fence face difficulties as the BSF lacks adequate manpower. Instead of increasing the BSF’s jurisdiction, the Centre should first provide adequate manpower to the force.”
A senior police official, who is posted in a border district, requesting anonymity, said, “Punjab Police are capable of dealing with any kind of situation. The decision is unfortunate. Punjab Police have already been seizing arms, ammunition and drugs even from across the barbed fence.”
He further said the decision will also have many complications during the trials in cases where the BSF will be involved. “Most BSF personnel get transferred within two or three years. It will be a task to produce the BSF personnel concerned in local courts in cases of seizures and arrests,” he said.
Another police official posted in the border area said, “Punjab Police are even capable of guarding the border. The decision should be revoked immediately.”
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) spokesperson and Tarn Taran district president Virsa Singh Valtoha said, “It is an attack on our federal structure. The Centre is working in collusion with the state government.”
The decision of the Centre comes a day after BSF’s director general (DG) Pankaj Kumar visited various border outposts (BoPs) in Punjab and reviewed the ‘domination and operational preparedness’ on the ground.
On October 5, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had met Union home minister Amit Shah and sought his ‘personal intervention’ to seal the border for breaking the supply chain of drugs and arms from across the border.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Rajya Sabha member from Amritsar Shwait Malki, however, hailed the decision. “The BSF is more capable than the Punjab Police. The decision is for the security and safety of the country and its citizens. Even, former CM Captain Amarinder Singh had repeatedly requested the Centre to protect the border area from the nefarious designs of Pakistan. There should be no politics on the issue,” he said.