Gadgets worth Rs 86 crore remain unused, create ‘security hole’ along Bangladesh border
In 2018, Border Security Force’s information and technology wing began executing the BOLD-QIT project and completed it in record time. It was inaugurated on March 5, 2019.
Published: 11th May 2022 03:16 AM | Last Updated: 11th May 2022 08:58 AM | A+A A-
NEW DELHI: Electronic and digital equipment procured from the open market for Rs 86 crore a few years ago as part of the Union Home Ministry’s Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) remain unused or have become junk, leaving a huge 61-km ‘security hole’ in the riverine stretch of the India-Bangladesh border in Assam.
The project to secure this riverine stretch on the Brahmaputra to prevent cross-border crime, illegal immigration from Bangladesh and cattle smuggling in Dhubri district of Assam was conceived in 2017 and named BOLD-QIT or Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique.
In 2018, Border Security Force’s information and technology wing began executing the BOLD-QIT project and completed it in record time with technical support from various manufacturers and suppliers. On March 5, 2019, the then home minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the project with a lot of fanfare.
However, documents in the possession of this newspaper reveal there are various equipment still to be put to use even after a long time has elapsed since their procurement.
A DIG from BSF’s Eastern Command shot off letters last year to his superiors in Delhi as well as the Central Information Commissioner, bringing to their notice that “sub-standard equipment were also procured”.
Claiming that BSF’s ‘G’ (Intelligence) Branch had also written numerous reports against the project to the superior officers in Delhi, the DIG put it on record that “some of the equipment are being shifted to other places”, though he did not specify the locations.
Last year, an internal audit exercise by a Guwahati-based Inspector General of the BSF described BOLD-QIT as a “failed project”. The BSF’s 174th battalion was stationed in Dhubri when the project was executed. The Dhubri sector is now guarded by the 19th and 41 battalions.
North Block sources revealed to TNIE that neither the home ministry nor the BSF has taken any concrete steps to “hold senior officials responsible for the utter waste of public money”.
The sources said, “The government talks a lot about strengthening security but has taken no foolproof measures to plug the eastern borders with Bangladesh, especially when the ministry has a dedicated border management division.”
Senior MHA officials were chary to comment on the waste of public money in relation to the lapse in Dhubri, which has been one of the most porous sections of the India-Bangladesh border and has been prone to illegal immigration.
The failure of BOLD-QIT has put in question the security of the “entire span of Brahmaputra”. For instance, the data network generated by Microwave communication, OFC cable, DMR communication, day and night surveillance cameras and intrusion detection systems, which were to be tied to BOLD-QIT, have also collapsed.
GRAND PLAN GONE TO WASTE?
Gadgets like thermal imagers, infra-red and laser-based intruder alarms, ground sensors were used for the surveillance system.
When CIBMS was included into the border management plan, it was to enable the BSF to equip the India-Bangladesh border with different kinds of sensors in the unfenced riverine stretches of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
The CIBMS concept involved integrating manpower, sensors and command and control to improve “situational awareness and facilitate quick response to emerging situations”.
While CIBMS’s major component is the ‘virtual fence’, its second part is the command and control structure, which aims to optimise the use of resources for border management, and the third component is power management to keep CIBMS running.
4,096.7 kilometres Total length of India-Bangladesh border.
Home Ministry’s 2020-21 annual report says, the total length of the India-Bangladesh border has been covered by.
Physical fencing: 3,112.18 km.
Physical and non-physical barriers comprising of technological solutions: 984.52 km.