The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) extended the jurisdiction of Border Security Force (BSF) up to 50 km from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. Earlier, the powers of the border guarding force — which includes arrest and seizure — were limited to up to 15 km in these states.
Interestingly, the ministry has reduced BSF’s area of operation in Gujarat where it earlier exercised its powers up to 80 km from the border, but will now cover only up to 50 km.
While Assam and Gujarat are ruled by the BJP, Punjab and West Bengal are Opposition-ruled states.
In a gazette notification issued Monday, the government said it is amending the schedule of its earlier notification of July 2014 in terms of jurisdiction of the BSF to exercise its powers in states that it guards international borders.
Outlining BSF’s jurisdiction through the new schedule, it said, “The whole of the area comprised in the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and so much of the area comprised within a belt of fifty kilometers in the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India.”
It said it had exercised the powers under the Border Security Force Act, 1968.
In the earlier notification issued on July 3, 2014, the MHA had said BSF’s jurisdiction extended till “the whole of the area comprised in the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and so much of the area comprised within a belt of eighty kilometers in the State of Gujarat, fifty kilometers in the State of Rajasthan and fifteen kilometers in the States of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India.”
Sources said the changes have been made on suggestions from the BSF. “Assam, Punjab and West Bengal have been troublesome borders because of rampant smuggling of drugs, cattle and arms and ammunition. If Punjab has the problem of drugs and arms, Assam and West Bengal pose ever new challenges in the form of cattle and fake currency smuggling. These borders are also prone to illegal migration. We have been getting inputs about illegal activity deep in the hinterland but our hands were tied beyond 15 km in these states. So, a suggestion was made to the MHA which it has agreed. This is going to greatly help in our operations against smuggling rackets,” a BSF officer said.
A home ministry official said the aim is also to make BSF’s operational jurisdiction uniform in these states. “They had 15 km jurisdiction in some states and then 80 km in Gujarat. So the idea was to make it uniform. In Gujarat, such a large operational area is not really required since the border region guarded by the BSF is largely uninhabited with miles of Rann of Kutch,” the official said.
When pointed out that Opposition-ruled states could have a problem with this formula, the official said, “It has been done is Assam also. It is a BJP ruled state. The sole aim of the notification is to improve operational efficiency of the BSF and help them crackdown on smuggling rackets,” the official said.