Centre enhances powers of BSF, Opposition slams the move
The Centre amended Section 139 of the Border Security Force (BSF) Act, in which the jurisdiction of the BSF extends.
The act authorizes the force to undertake search, seizure, and arrest within a larger 50 km stretch, instead of the existing 15 km, from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam.
The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification on October 11 amending July 2014 enabling provision for the BSF personnel and officers while they operate in the border areas, according to a BSF statement on Wednesday.
While the BJP leaders have welcomed the decision, it is not surprising that the opposition party came out to oppose the decision.
Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi tweeted on Wednesday condemning the Centre’s decision to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) to a 50 km belt along the international border in Punjab, West Bengal, and Assam.
I strongly condemn the GoI’s unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister @AmitShah to immediately rollback this irrational decision.
— Charanjit S Channi (@CHARANJITCHANNI) October 13, 2021
While the Punjab and West Bengal have a loud protest against the Centre’s decision, the Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said the move, in coordination with the state police, would serve as a strong deterrent for defeating cross-border smuggling and illegal infiltration.
CM Channi said it is an attack on federalism. The Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa on Wednesday asked Union Home Minister Amit Shah to withdraw the decision.
The opposition party of Punjab, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) described the decision as Central rule in the state through the back door. The Akali leader also called upon Chief Minister Charanjit Channi to come clean on the state government’s stand on the sensitive issue.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) called the Centre’s move as “dictatorship” and said states should have been consulted before reducing the jurisdiction of their police.
While the Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said this is a conspiracy to take away the powers of elected governments in states.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asked what was the sudden need to expand the BSF’s jurisdiction without informing the state government.
“We oppose this decision. This is an infringement on the rights of the state.
Meanwhile, the SAD described the move to hand over almost half of the state to the BSF as “the imposition of the President’s rule through the back door in nearly half of Punjab”.
“This virtually turns the state into a de facto Union territory. This devious attempt to place the state directly under the Central rule must and will be opposed,” senior Akali leader and former minister Daljit Singh Cheema said in a statement.
He said this was at the same time, “a frontal assault on the federal principle through highly questionable misuse of constitutional provisions”.
Cheema said it was shocking the BSF has been given sweeping powers divesting the state police of even the normal policing duties.
“As per the Constitution, only the state government can call out the Central forces to aid and assist the state administration. The Centre cannot thrust these forces on the state without a formal request from the state government,” he said.
Former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh backed the Centre’s decision. He tweeted, “Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We’re seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pak-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF’s enhanced presence and powers will only make us stronger. Let’s not drag central armed forces into politics.”
Amarinder Singh added, “Partisan considerations can’t and shouldn’t dictate our stand on issues of national security. I’d said that at the time of the 2016 surgical strikes and am saying it again. We’ve to rise above politics when India’s security is at stake, as it is now.”
The Ministry of Home Affairs has written, “The amendment effected on October 11, 2021, establishes uniformity in defining the area within which Border Security Force can operate as per its charter of duties and execution of its role and task of border guarding in its areas of deployment. This will also enable improved operational effectiveness in curbing trans-border crime.”
[With Inputs from IANS]
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