MHA defends decision of extending BSF jurisdiction as Opposition objects

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday asked police in districts that share borders with neighbouring countries to keep a watch on activities of the BSF.

Published: 08th December 2021 04:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2021 09:05 AM   |  A+A-


BSF (Photo | PTI)

By Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Emerging threats of drones and cattle smuggling are among the reasons that made the Centre expand the territorial jurisdiction of Border Security Force in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in Parliament on Tuesday. 

Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai made a statement on this while responding to questions from Pilibhit’s BJP MP Varun Gandhi.

“Extension in territorial jurisdiction of BSF in some states is aimed at empowering BSF to discharge its border guarding duties more effectively in the wake of use of technology like Dynamic Remotely Operated Navigation Equipment (Drones), Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAVs), etc by anti-national forces for surveillance as well as for smuggling of arms, narcotics and fake Indian currency notes (FICN),” the minister said in a written reply.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Tuesday asked police in districts that share borders with neighbouring countries to keep a watch on activities of the BSF, in the wake of the killing of 14 civilians in Nagaland by security forces.

She also directed police to not allow the Border Security Force to breach its earmarked jurisdiction, and maintained that law and order is a state subject.

"I know there is this problem" BSF personnel enter our villages and then we get complaints about harassment.

They go to several places that are beyond their jurisdiction without informing the police.

"Everybody has seen what happened in Nagaland" in Bengal's Sitalkuchi during assembly polls and recently in Coochbehar, where three persons were killed in firing. I will ask the block development officers and inspectors-in-charge to be on alert," she said at an administrative review meeting of Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur districts held in Karnajora here.

Banerjee was referring to the killing of 14 civilians by security forces in Nagaland's Mon district on December 4 and 5.

The chief minister has also been protesting against the Centre's decision to extend BSF's jurisdiction, terming the move as an attempt to interfere with the federal structure of the country.

The BJP-led central government has amended the BSF Act to authorise the force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a 50-km stretch from the earlier 15-km limit, from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

"We do not have problems in the border areas and share very cordial relations (with neighbouring countries). There is no need to create this confusion. Law and order is a state subject," Banerjee had said.

West Bengal shares international borders with Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

Meanwhile, the BJP panned Banerjee for criticising the BSF and questioning its jurisdiction.

"The CM talks about federalism, and then makes insulting comments against the security forces. She questions the rights of BSF and its jurisdiction. If the elected head of government speaks in such a manner, her party leaders will naturally speak in the same tone. This violates the spirit of the constitution," party spokesman Samik Bhattacharya said.

He said as the south Bengal border is 1,300 km long and dotted with numerous water bodies and flora, 15-km area of operation for border guards was too little, and the decision to extend that was justified.

On the announcement of Banerjee that elections to 112 municipal bodies, where voting was overdue for more than a year, will be held soon after the December 19 KMC polls, Bhattacharya said, "When the matter is pending before the high court, such an utterance shows how TMC takes decisions in an autocratic manner."

"The state election commission is acting like a political servant of the TMC," he asserted.

Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu on Tuesday alleged that the Centre's decision to extend the BSF's jurisdiction inside the International Border was a bid to "control" Punjab as the assembly election was approaching.

The Centre had in October amended the BSF Act to authorise the border guarding force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a 50 km stretch, up from the existing 15 km, from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

Opposition parties, including the Congress and the TMC, have flayed the move alleging it was a design to "dilute federalism" and an "infringement" on the rights of states.

Addressing the Lok Sabha during the Zero Hour, Bittu, the MP from Punjab, alleged that his state has not got its own capital even after 55 years.

Chandigarh is the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana and the city is a Union territory.

Raising the issue of the Union government amending the BSF Act, Bittu said, "Since election is coming (this has been done) so that Punjab can be controlled from the Centre through the BSF."

"There will be clashes between the BSF and local police. The Golden Temple, Durgiana temple, Amritsar, half (of the) districts will be under their control. This should be taken back," the MP from Ludhiana said.

The BSF should remain at the border but it should be prevented from coming into cities, he said, adding it was a sensitive issue for Punjab.

Trinamool Congress MP Sudip Bandyopadhyay also raised the issue during the Zero Hour.

"Last time our chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) met the prime minister. It is a very crucial issue that BSF are penetrating 50 kilometres inside the border area, which is not supported by the government of West Bengal," he said.

Bandyopadhyay said the Centre's decision on the BSF's jurisdiction will lead to law-and-order.

"You are aware of what happened in Nagaland. This deployment of central forces in different places will never be good for the government," he said.

"So, our humble submission to the government is that immediately let them go back to the border areas according to the system, according to their jurisdiction, and cancel the order that BSF can take entry up to 50 kilometres of states' jurisdiction," the TMC MP said.

Bandyopadhyay alleged that the Centre's decision was "totally opposed to the federal structure" of the government's functioning hoped the decision would be reversed immediately.

Also during the Zero Hour, BJP MP Hema Malini demanded strict legal provisions to prevent cruelty against animals.

She said necessary amendments should be made in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

Malini also demanded that strict penal provisions be added to the Act.

During the Question Hour in the House, BJP MP Sanjay Seth demanded that the name of the country should be just 'Bharat' and the practice of writing and saying 'India that is Bharat' must be stopped.

(With PTI Inputs)


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