Amid a row over the extension of the territorial jurisdiction of the Border Security Force in Punjab, a top officer of the border guarding force on Saturday said the powers of the state police remain intact and the BSF is only there to complement it. BSF Inspector General (Punjab Frontier) Sonali Mishra made this remark two days after the Punjab assembly adopted a resolution against the Centre’s notification extending the BSF’s jurisdiction.
In an interaction with media persons in Jalandhar, IPS officer Mishra said in the emerging national security threat, the challenges are becoming complex and complicated and drones have become one of the biggest challenges in the last two or three years. The Punjab Frontier of the BSF is mandated to guard the border which is stretching to 553 km.
Punjab Vidhan Sabha recently dubbed the Centre’s move of extending the BSF’s jurisdiction as an “insult” to the state police. The resolution that was passed in the assembly in the absence of two BJP legislators had said the decision of extending the BSF’s jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km by the Union government was an “expression of distrust” towards the state police and the people of Punjab.
Former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, had said extending the BSF’s operational jurisdiction neither infringed upon the federal authority of Punjab nor questioned the competence of the state police in maintaining law and order.
The Centre had last month amended the BSF Act to authorise the border guarding force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within 50 km from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
Addressing the media, Mishra said, The BSF is mandated to guard the border which is stretching to 553 km and our main role is to maintain the sanctity of the border, to create a sense of security among the border population and prevent trans-border crimes. She said the BSF troops have been conducting joint operations with the state police and various law enforcement agencies like the Narcotics Control Bureau.
Touching upon the Centre’s notification on the BSF’s jurisdiction, Mishra said the jurisdiction has been extended from 15 km to 50 km. The BSF has worked in this area right from 1965, she said and added, We always maintained cooperation and coordination with the state police.” The BSF is not a policing organisation as a result of which the BSF does not have the power to register any FIR nor to do any investigation.
“We do not have any mandate to work under the Evidence Act and the IPC. So, when we hand over any seized material to any of the law enforcement agencies, they go ahead with registering FIR, conducting the investigation, booking the culprits and bringing it to the logical conclusion by filing charge sheet in the court. So, the power of the (Punjab) police remains intact and we are only complementing them and assisting them and strengthening them,” said Mishra who is a 1993-batch IPS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre.
Citing drones as one of the biggest challenges, Mishra said the anti-national elements were now using better drones with lesser noise and capable of flying at a higher level for smuggling and other illegal purposes.
There have been instances in which drones dropped heroin six km inside from the international border, she said. She pointed out that earlier in 2019, the drones were found to be coming up to 2 km from the border and they used to fly at a lesser height.
But with time, they (anti-national elements) are using better drones and better software. As per the discussion with the state police, there have been cases in which the droppings were made even 6 km inside the state from the IB, she said. Replying to a question, she said the BSF had sighted 12 drones in 2019, 32 in 2020 and 45 in 2021.
She said the government has already approved funds for counter-drone technology and added, We have one of the agencies in the government of India as the nodal agency for working on various technologies on drones. A lot of work is going on and a lot of trials are taking place and we should soon have some technology, she said.
She said this year so far, the BSF has recovered 387 kg of heroin and 55 weapons besides making 77 arrests and eliminating six Pakistan smugglers. Mishra assumed the charge of the new Inspector General (IG) of the Border Security Force’s Punjab Frontier headquartered in the Jalandhar district in July this year.