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Know Your Paramilitary | Part 1: Border Security Force

The BSF’s job primarily is to guard the borders and give a sense of security to locals in these parts. The force is also responsible for checking cross-border crimes, unauthorised entry into or exit from the territory of India, and preventing smuggling or any other anti-national and illegal activity. (Representational image: @BSF_India/Twitter)

The BSF’s job primarily is to guard the borders and give a sense of security to locals in these parts. The force is also responsible for checking cross-border crimes, unauthorised entry into or exit from the territory of India, and preventing smuggling or any other anti-national and illegal activity. (Representational image: @BSF_India/Twitter)

The BSF's jawans face tough terrains and temperatures ranging from -30 degrees Celsius to as high as 50 degrees. The personnel remain active round the clock and ensure the safety and security of not only the border but also the locals who live nearby.

When it comes to dealing with the perpetually tense Pakistan situation, the Border Security Force (BSF) remains the authority. The force, which is responsible for guarding the sensitive border, has close to 2.7 lakh jawans and officers, manning the 2289.6 km International Border (IB) with Pakistan and 85 km of coastline — going from Kashmir to Rajasthan. That’s not all. The BSF is also deployed to guard the 143 km of Line of Control (LoC) with the Army.

Similarly, the force is also guarding another important border in the east, with Bangladesh.

The BSF’s jawans face tough terrains and temperatures ranging from -30 degrees Celsius to as high as 50 degrees in Rajasthan. The personnel remain active round the clock and ensure the safety and security of not only the border but also the locals who live nearby.

The BSF is also tasked with other additional responsibilities, including law and order duties in cities, anti-Naxal and anti-insurgency exercises, and disaster response.

History

Till 1965, India’s border with Pakistan was manned by the State Armed Police Force battalions. In April 1965, Pakistan attacked Sardar Post, Chhar Bet, and Beria Bet in Kutch. The event showed that the state police force was not equipped to deal with the challenge. A meeting was called in Delhi to discuss plans.

The story of the BSF starts here, when KF Rustamji in 1965 was part of a high-level meeting in Delhi on internal security. The officer was the lone voice from the police side to propose the formation of the BSF and was convincing other stakeholders. A few weeks after the meeting, he was called to Delhi and asked to take over the responsibility of raising the BSF. The force was formed to guard the borders and prevent illegal infiltration. Initially, in 1965, the BSF was raised with 25 battalions and it expanded at all levels. At present, the BSF holds 192 (including 3 of NDRF) battalions and 7 BSF Arty Regiments guarding the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh. It is the only such force with its own air wing, headed by an inspector general-rank official.

Stories of valour

The BSF’s job primarily is to guard the borders and give a sense of security to locals in these parts. The force is also responsible for checking cross-border crimes, unauthorised entry into or exit from the territory of India, and preventing smuggling or any other anti-national and illegal activity.

Apart from this, the BSF has played important roles in various wars with Pakistan. In fact, during the Kargil war of 1999, the BSF remained on the heights of the mountains and defended the country with full force, and didn’t allow Pakistani attackers to dent India. As per the BSF, the force was inducted in J&K for counterinsurgency operations in the late 1980s. In Srinagar Valley, the BSF was deployed for airport security duties, Raj Bhawan duties, etc, before being given the charge of internal security.

The BSF also played an important role in restoring peace in Kashmir. In the 1990s, when militancy was at its peak in the Valley, the force was brought into this region. The BSF successfully regained two areas after fighting with terrorists. In Jammu and Kashmir, it’s sacrificed more than 1,000 of its men and officers.

The force’s personnel have been involved in dealing with insurgency in Manipur. The BSF’s dedication towards the public can be gauged from the fact that during the Gujarat earthquake on January 26, 2001, its troops were among the first responders who helped the people and rescued many. Also, during communal riots, BSF personnel were deployed to restore harmony among the people.

The BSF was also tasked with wiping out left-wing extremism. In 2009, after noticing a rise in LWE, the government decided to rope in the BSF for anti-Naxal operations. The force was deployed to deal with the menace in Raipur, Koraput, and Thiruvananthapuram.

That is not all. In 1967, a certain section of Delhi Police staff revolted against the termination of services of a few personnel who were facing indiscipline inquiries. The BSF was called in to control the situation as the protesters had plans for a chaotic protest in Lutyens’ Delhi. The force also played a key role in controlling the Ahmedabad and Bhagalpur riots.

Strength and structure

At present, the BSF is the second-largest paramilitary force in India with 192 battalions, air wing, water wing, and artillery regiments. The force is headed by a senior IPS officer at the director general level. The BSF is divided into commands and frontiers at the top level. The eastern and western commands are each headed by an officer of the special director general (SDG) level. The SDG of the western command heads and looks after the frontiers of Srinagar, Jammu, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat. The SDG (east) heads the frontiers of South Bengal, North Bengal, Meghalaya, Manipur & Cachar, Tripura, Guwahati, etc.

At another level of division, four additional director generals supervise human resources, operations, logistics, and academy. The force is divided into nine directorates that oversee different departments like personnel, operations, administrative, general, training, communication and information technology, provisioning, air wing, and Medical. The frontiers are each headed by an inspector general-level officer.

Budget

Considering the situation at the Indo-Pak border, the government of India has kept increasing the BSF’s budget so that the force can purchase the required equipment and not face any monetary issues. In 2020, the BSF had a total budget of more than Rs 19,000 crore, which has been increased by almost Rs 3,000 crore for the financial year 2022-2023.

Training

The Border Security Force in the last five decades has witnessed a massive increase in total force strength. The force has multiple training centres across India, which give periodic training for re-skilling, up-skilling and capacity building. Starting from a basic training course, where a person acquires military acumen, subsequent training modules focus on specialised skills and developing leadership qualities. BSF Academy Tekanpur is the learning centre that gives commando training to officers. Also, the centre teaches counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, explosive detection and handling, etc. The central school of weapons and tactics gives training in the area and also conducts training of all ranks in weapons and surveillance equipment. The force also has a National Training Centre for Dogs (NTCD) in Gwalior where the best breeds of canines are trained. The officers and jawans also undergo counterinsurgency and anti-terrorist operations training.

BSF 2.0 and what is next

Unlike traditional ways, now terror outfits have been using the latest technology to disturb peace in India. The BSF has also upgraded itself.

The force has been exploring the usage of advanced technologies to meet the requirements of an impregnable surveillance grid along the entire border. It has recently started exploring new anti-tunnelling technology with various organisations.

Due to their geographical locations, the areas of Punjab and Jammu have witnessed continuous attempts by anti-India elements to send arms, ammunition, and drugs. Understanding the gravity of this, the BSF is using anti-drone technology. Detailed mapping has been done at the Indo-Pak border along with the deployment of additional special surveillance equipment, vehicles, etc. Surveillance equipment like Handheld Thermal Imager (HHTI), Night Vision Device (NVD), Long-Range Reconnaissance and Observation System (LORROS), Battle Field Surveillance Radar (BFSR), Twin Telescope, UAVs, etc. are being used for effective area domination. Integrated surveillance technology equipped with CCTV/ PTZ cameras, infrared sensors, and infrared alarm with command and control system is under consideration. The BSF is also using watercraft and floating border outposts for domination of the riverine area of the international border.

For the next level, the BSF is looking to expand its force structure and acquire the latest technology to guard the borders. It is also planning to buy level 4 bulletproof/resistance equipment. The force will deploy additional radars and night surveillance technology and expects to reach close to 3 lakh troops in the next 10 years.

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