Amid a political tussle over an order by ministry of home affairs granting more powers to BSF, experts related to security forces have mixed feelings on it. While a former Punjab DGP feels the Border Security Force (BSF) is equipped to deal with new threats such as drones easily, a former BSF ADG said it will divert the organisation from fulfilling its “primary mandate" of border guarding.
According to a new gazette notification, dated October 11, BSF officials can now search, seize, arrest — at par with their police counterparts — 50 km deep into border states Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. The earlier jurisdictional limit for these states was 15 km. While Assam has welcomed the Centre’s move, Punjab and West Bengal have condemned the move calling it an attack on “federal structure".
Interestingly, even with a police background, former Punjab DGP Shashi Kant told News18 that BSF must have the power to seize drones that come into Indian territory.
“We (Punjab Police) have worked in intelligence agencies and other central government forces. Now drones that have been coming in have a limited range. They are carrying arms and ammunition and are dropped inside. So, normally, they can travel maximum up to 40 to 50 km, not more than that. For that, BSF must have the power to seize them," Shashi Kant said.
The former DGP said, “He, however, also said political parties were in the habit of politicking over such matters as elections were around the corner. “BSF was always there. On certain occasions, it was also there for internal security duties; I don’t think there will be any problem. It has become a political issue because of a misconception."
Shashi Kant also said the problem was that elections will be held in Punjab in a few months. So, everybody wanted to derive “political benefit" out of the situation, he added.
Former BSF ADG SK Sood said BSF powers were granted considering population in the area and police strength. The step, he said, will divert the force from performing its primary duty of guarding the border.
“BSF in Rajasthan and Gujarat had 80 km-radius limit from the border decades ago because there were hardly any police, and population was low. But in Punjab, this was no issue, which is why BSF had 15 km. I think this step will divert the force, which is already facing staff crunch, from performing its duty. Giving powers to BSF is okay, but border guarding is our primary mandate and we should stick to that," Sood told News18.
On the drone issue, Sood said these threats came from across the border so the BSF’s primary job should be to strengthen the border instead of handling powers such as search, seizure and arrest.