Stop politicizing BSF jurisdiction issue, it’s important for national security-India News, Firstpost

The Centre’s decision brings partial uniformity in the definition of BSF’s area of ​​competence and avoids state-to-state differentials

The Border Security Force is India’s border guard organization on its border with Pakistan and Bangladesh. AFP

This is yet another case of policy attempting to unnecessarily confuse a move towards establishing much-needed uniformity in the mandate of the security forces in India’s national security architecture. The Home Office (MHA) notification of October 11, 2021 set the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) at a uniform limit of 50 kilometers in almost all states that share borders with Pakistan, the Bangladesh and Myanmar.

This was brought about by adjustments to existing arrangements which kept the BSF operational area at 50 kilometers in the states of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya, but limited to only 15 kilometers in West Bengal, Punjab. and in Assam. Likewise, in Gujarat where the existing jurisdiction was 80 kilometers, will now be reduced to 50 kilometers.

The notification will enable the BSF to investigate, seize and arrest to prevent offenses falling under various laws, including the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), Passport Act (Entry into India) of 1920 and Passport Act of 1967. The notification, however, does not give the BSF the power to investigate crimes. The suspects and the accused will still have to be handed over to the local authorities.

By all means, the MHA decision brings partial uniformity in the definition of BSF’s area of ​​competence and avoids state-to-state differences. The OSB’s current arrest, search and seizure powers under the NDPS Act, the Weapons Act, the Customs Act and certain other laws, however, have not been changed. , which means that its powers under these will continue to extend up to 15 kilometers inside the border in Punjab, Assam and West Bengal, and will remain up to 80 kilometers in Gujarat. However, even with these limitations, this increased depth in the operational area will add to the effectiveness of the force which has been charged with a range of responsibilities and yet is constrained to operate within illogically defined geographic boundaries. The BSF has been calling for such an approach for several years.

Notwithstanding, like any other official initiative that invites criticism from opposition parties on political grounds, this has also been criticized by dispensations from power in West Bengal and Punjab. Described as an affront to the federal structure of the Indian state, the enhanced jurisdiction of the BSF was also interpreted as the Center attempting to take over the role of state police.

The Aam Aadmi party, which is considering an electoral windfall in the Punjab state elections next year, even said that “half of the state has been handed over to the central government” by the state government, ignoring the fact that the Chief Minister of Punjab was also critical of the MHA decision. Most of these accusations are either misleading or have little understanding of emerging national security challenges and the functioning of transnational criminal syndicates.

Some analysts have also pointed to the BSF’s negative human rights record in opposing the MHA’s decision. However, many of these incidents of human rights violations could also be linked to the restricted operational zone in which the BSF has been forced to operate over the past decades. In West Bengal, for example, many cattle smuggling unions have fully exploited the 15-kilometer limit of BSF operations. The central areas where these criminal activities are organized, the livestock intended to be smuggled into Bangladesh are stored and the leaders of these networks are based, do not fall under the BSF. This severely limits BSF operations to “points of impact”, without being able to do much at “points of origin”.

The arrests of the easily replaceable low-level infantrymen of these unions had little impact on the flourishing trade. Local politics and criminal nexus further limit the extent to which the OSB can obtain the cooperation of state police forces. When such a link does not exist, the ability of the state police to operate independently is affected by a lack of resources, manpower and specialized training. The same goes for human trafficking and counterfeit money networks.

In the Punjab, seizures of huge amounts of narcotic substances in the recent past indicate the future of trade with its roots in Afghanistan. The instability in that country, following the Taliban takeover, has emboldened transnational unions who see a huge opportunity for themselves. Unions operate not at the international border managed by the BSF but deep within the state, keeping them outside the jurisdiction of the BSF.

Another challenge is the ever-increasing incidents of drone weapon drops across the border in Punjab and Kashmir. It is therefore not clear why the power of the BSF under the NDPS and Weapons Act was not extended. It certainly makes sense to have a uniform extension of the force’s powers by virtue of all the central acts on which it is mandated to act.

Opposition critics also ignore the fact that even after improving their area of ​​operation, BSF personnel will remain dependent on the state police to carry out much of their work. its responsibilities. Devoid of investigative power and responsibility for denouncing those arrested, the BSF’s execution capacity will remain intrinsically linked to the capacity building of the State police forces.

An effective fight against transnational organized crime will be based on a cooperative and non-competitive regime between central and state forces. The notification from the MHA therefore does not really take away from the state police its responsibilities, but underlines the need to soften its working relations with the central forces. States affected by extremism have been able to achieve this to a large extent.

A curious mindset in India expects security forces to fulfill a range of diverse responsibilities, yet opposes any initiative that allows them to do so. The MHA could nevertheless have involved opposition parties and other key players in a process of dialogue and consultation before its decision. However, as is the case in today’s politically polarized India, even the best intentions of the Center are unlikely to remain immune to the politics of opposition parties in the states.

The writer is the director of Mantraya, a Goa-based think tank and author of “National Security Decision Making in India”. He previously served as deputy director in the secretariat of the National Security Council. The opinions expressed are personal.

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