No decision has been made on selecting a new full-time Director-General for the Border Security Force, which has been without a full-time chief for more than three months, government sources have told News18. The BSF is responsible for guarding India’s 6,380 kilometre borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh, and also has a significant role in counter-Maoist operations.
Surjeet Singh Deswal, the Director-General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police—charged with guarding India’s high-altitude frontiers with China—has held additional charge of the BSF since March, even as he plays a critical role in the still-unfolding crisis in Ladakh.
“An organisation like the BSF, given the critical functions it performs on the sensitive border with Pakistan, ought not to be left without a Director-General for any length of time,” said N Ramachandran Pillai, president of the Indian Police Foundation and former Director-General of Police. “It will have damaging impact on morale and operational readiness.”
The Border Security Force’s last Director-General, former Research and Analysis Wing officer Vivek Johri, left the organisation in March after just seven months in office to become Director-General of the Madhya Pradesh Police.
The final authority to appoint a Director-General for the BSF rests with the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and with Home Minister Amit Shah as one of its members.
The process of picking a new chief for the BSF, government sources said, has been delayed because of the pressures placed on the Prime Minister and Home Minister due to their role in managing the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the border crisis with China.
Key Director General of Police-level positions, including those of the Special Secretary in charge of internal security at the Ministry of Home Affairs and one at the National Human Rights Commission, have also remained unfilled because of pressures on decision-makers, a senior government official said.
Extended delays in the appointment of BSF chiefs, though rare, are not unprecedented. Following the retirement of former Director-General PR Jaishree in February 2014, the organisation remained without a chief until the appointment of Pal Anjali Ramsajeevan in January, 2015.
In that case, government sources said the delay was caused by the transition from the United Progressive Alliance to the National Democratic Alliance government, which took office in June, 2014.
“Leaving an organisation like the BSF without a dedicated Director-General has a particularly damaging impact on long-term planning,” Pillai said. “An acting Director-General and his subordinate officers can address routine administrative decisions, but will not be able to act on issues critical to the long-term development and growth of the BSF”.
The BSF, with over 250,000 personnel, is responsible for guarding the border, and it includes air and naval wings, as well as special forces units.