The decision to increase the jurisdiction of the BSF should have been made after speaking to the states. It is not too late for the Center to contact them.

The Union Home Office has increased the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force 50 km from the border in Assam, Punjab and West Bengal, instead of the previous 15 km. The move is ostensibly linked to securing the three border states in an era of heightened drug seizures, new drug and arms smuggling routes and concerns over cross-border infiltration of activists, amid a deteriorating l security environment in the region. The BSF’s jurisdiction has only been extended with respect to the search, seizure and arrest powers it currently has under the Criminal Procedure Code, Passport Act (entry into India) of 1920 and the Passport Act 1967. It has the same powers under the NDPS Act, the Weapons Act and the Customs Act, but its jurisdiction under them will remain within a radius of 15 km. But while BSF officials have said the move will ensure “uniformity” in operations in border states, the state governments of Punjab and West Bengal have called it yet another attack on federalism and ‘a violation of state powers. No state should have a problem with any initiative to improve the security of the country. The problem, however, is the militarization seen by the Center of central agencies such as the Directorate of Enforcement, the Central Bureau of Investigation and even the Narcotics Control Bureau. In recent years, this has made opposition-led states wary of any move to expand the central role within their borders.

As Chief Minister of Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also protested the UPA government’s decision to increase the BSF’s jurisdiction in the states. “Cooperative federalism” is one of the Prime Minister’s mantras, but the real challenge lies in implementation. Instead of a bland notification announcing the changes, the Union Home Office could have put the governments of the states where it increased the BSF’s area of ​​operation and prevented a vital paramilitary force from being trusted. drawn into a political exchange.

BSF operations would be crippled without the cooperation of state governments. The paramilitary needs the support of the local police to carry out their duties effectively, especially since they must hand over those arrested and seized to the police, and leave the rest of the proceedings, including registration. of the FIR and the preparation of the chargesheet, to them. Coordination with state police is also crucial so that both forces understand their responsibility and avoid blame games in the event of a slippage. These were sufficient reasons to involve state governments in a decision as important as this one. It is not too late, even now, for the Center to convene a meeting of border states and inform them of the security concerns that prompted this decision.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on October 18, 2021 under the title “Bring states on board”.

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