Border Security Force: India

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

Contents

BSF brief history of 50 years; killed 2,000 militants

The Times of India, Oct 22 2015

BSF killed 2,000 militants in 50 yrs

The Border Security Force, born exactly 50 years ago, has caught around 9,000 militants and killed 2,000 of them, mostly on the border with Pakistan. Some of the prominent names among terrorists caught by BSF , as shown in a documentary film unveiled by the force at Vigyan Bhawan on Wednesday , include J&K separatist leader Yasin Malik, and two dreaded terrorists -Maulana Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar -released by Indian agencies in exchange for passengers of hijacked IC-814 flight.

Home minister Rajnath Singh released a commemorative stamp to mark 50 years of raising of the force on Wednes day , which is also marked as police commemoration day .He also honoured the families of the martyrs of the force.

Officials said that BSF has lost 1,551 men in the battles and in the line of duty on borders, out of which 1,000 have died in J&K border alone. The government has awarded one Mahavir Chakra, 11 Veer Chakra, 4 Kirt Chakra, 12 Shourya Chakra 231 President Police Medal fo gallantry and 870 police meda for gallantry to the force. Celebrating the golden ju bilee of BSF, a Rs 5 stamp wa also released which depict BSF's camel patrol in the ho deserts of Thar in Rajasthan

BSF’s air wing

The Times of IndiaDec 23 2015

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

BSF has an air wing since 1969, which has a fleet of four fixed wing aircraft -one Embraer, two Avros and the crashed Superking (SKA B-200). It also has 15 helicopters consisting of six MI-17 1V , two advanced Mi-17 V5 choppers, six Advance Light Helicopters (Dhruv) and one Cheetah helicopter.

BSF planes and helicopters, which operate under MHA's command, are usually deployed for Naxal operations, disasters like earthquake and floods, ferrying senior rank officials and politicians for important events.

The medium-lift helicopters (MLH) MI-17 1V fleet was inducted in BSF in 2003. These helicopters were procured under the J&K action plan. Earlier this fleet was mainly used for air logistics and communication tasks. However, in the last few years their employment and the scope of their utilisation has extended.

BSF's air wing has its bases at New Delhi, Raipur, Ranchi, Agartala and Srinagar, with fixed-wing operations only from Delhi.

In fact, the Superking, which was inducted in 1994 in the BSF, has been extensively used by the force in the last 20 years. The same plane reportedly went to Kutch, Gujarat, where Intelligence Bureau held its DGIG conference, which was attended by PM Narendra Modi and home minister Rajnath Singh as well.

Plane of same make crashed in '92

The Times of India Jan 01 2016

Saurabh Sinha

Was Probably First Pilot-Caused Accident In Country

Nearly 10 days after a Border Security Force (BSF) Super King Air B-200 aircraft crashed at IGI Airport killing 10 people on board, it has emerged that another BSF plane of the same make had crashed at Delhi Airport in August 1992 also.While last week's crash was caused due to a serious technical failure, the 1992 crash may have been the first pilotcaused crash in India.

TOI has accessed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation's report of that crash, which states the pilot had asked the co-pilot to get off the plane on the runway; took off alone without air traffic cont rol (ATC) clearance and seconds later the plane crashed.

“BSF Beechcraft B-200 Super King aircraft (VT-EOA) was engaged in local flying (circuits and landings) at IGI Airport on August 27, 1992.There were two people on bo ard, including the commander. After two circuits and landings, the commander asked for full stop landing. However, after landing, the commander asked the ATC about one more circuit to which the controller gave consent and asked him to line up on runway 28,“ the report states.

“The aircraft took off without clearance and turned left for circuit. It was then seen nosediving and hit the ground. It caught fire and was destroyed,“ it says, adding that the pilot--the only one on board was fatally injured.

The DGCA probe found a probable cause of this accident. “The exact cause of the accident could not be confirmed. However, on the basis of evidence on record, the probability of deliberate attempt to crash the aircraft by the late captain could not be ruled out. The probability of incapacitation of the captain during the last circuit has also not been ruled out,“ the DGCA report says.

Personnel issues

Causes for death

Heart attacks, road accidents cause 30% of deaths

The Times of India, Apr 25 2016

Heart attacks, road accidents cause 30% of BSF deaths a yr


In a worrying trend, the Border Security Force (BSF) has found that heart diseases or road accidents account for nearly 30% of deaths of its personnel annually.

BSF director general K K Sharma, in an interaction with troops along the International Border (IB) in Jaisalmer, asked them to adopt healthy lifestyles and drive safely.

He said figures showed that out of about 400 deaths taking place in a year in the country's largest border guarding force, 70 were because of heart attacks and about 50 due to vehicular accidents.

Suicides: Work stress related?

Neeraj Chauhan, Work stress could be reason for suicides in BSF, says study, December 24, 2017: The Times of India

A study conducted by Border Security Force (BSF) suggests that the sentinels of the country’s borders are not living in very good conditions and are unhappy with certain facilities which could have helped reduce their occupational stress. This in turn could be leading to suicides/fratricides and personnel leaving the job without thinking about their future.

Conducted by Gyaneshwar Singh, second-in-command of 166th battalion at BSF’s North Bengal Frontier, the study looks at the level of occupational stress in the force due to non-operational factors (non-work stressors).

“Occupational stress is impelling the personnel either to take the extreme step of suicide/fratricide to overcome the stress, or to leave the job without having any certainty about their future,” says the study, which has been approved by the top brass of BSF, the two lakh strong force which guards India’s borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Talking about the trust deficit among senior command and lower ranks in the force, the BSF study says that there is a need to develop a culture of open expression and regular dialogue between the commanders and those under their command (jawans), “which is (presently) missing in the organisation”. It goes on to say that the present relationship in BSF between commanders and lower ranks is of “authoritarian” nature, which is a one way system.

The research has looked at living conditions of jawans at the borders and other places of posting, their families, finances, and relationship with seniors to establish how these things lead to occupational stress.

About the living barracks of jawans, the study says that around 43.7% of personnel have termed the conditions of living barracks (at places of posting) as ‘satisfactory,’ while 20.4% have said it is ‘bad’ and 4.8% claim it is ‘very bad’. Only 7.6 % BSF personnel have rated the living barracks as “very good” while 22.6 % have rated them as “good”. About 94.5% BSF personnel have stated that they need cleanliness in toilets, numbers of cots and fans increased at the barracks.

The living conditions of jawans and the fact that they get less time to sleep adds to their woes and hence their motivational level is really affected, which further causes “stress”, it says. The command level officers interviewed by researchers agreed even though they make efforts to provide the basic amenities to the troops deployed on border but “there are always one or the other limitation”. “It is true that we haven’t been able to provide comfortable and healthy living conditions on border,” the senior officers admit.

On whether the jawans are appreciated for their work or not, it says that 51% personnel feel that their work is not appreciated whle about 42% feel it is appreciated.

“It is an important factor which has direct bearing on the motivation and morale. Some troops opine that the task assigned to them are fulfilled with great zeal and enthusiasm but no recognition is shown towards them,” the study says.

Asserting that ‘family’ is the main non-operational factor which is the strongest ‘stressor’ for occupational stress in the force, the study says, “There are various issues related to family. It is not only the separation from the family but their well-being and settlement also raises a worry for the person who is deployed at border.” “…..the occupational stress has direct bearing on the productivity and motivation of the organisation. Moreover the lesser the motivation, the lesser is the commitment or the involvement which can also be termed as employee engagement,” study says, adding that “occupational stress which has now become a common phenomenon and a subject in discussion.”

Court judgements

Can sack jawan without probe for spying

Ajay Sura, HC: BSF can sack jawan without probe for spying, December 9, 2018: The Times of India


The Punjab and Haryana high court has upheld dismissal of a BSF constable, Binder Singh of Fazilka for passing sensitive information to a Pakistan spy about BSF deployment in the border areas of Punjab.

While serving with 41-Battalion of BSF in Abohar sector, Binder had on November 3-4, 2012, communicated some highly-sensitive information about BSF deployment to the spy. He used words like “haveli” for battalion headquarters and “kutte” (dogs) for BSF personnel to communicate with the spy.

The division bench, headed by Chief Justice Krishna Murari has also held that if it was impractical for the BSF to hold an inquiry in as much as it would have been prejudicial to national interest, it can dismiss the services of its personnel without holding a court of inquiry.

Physical training

Yog replaces daily PT drills/ 2016

The Times of India, August 3, 2016

Yoga to replace routine drill for BSF personnel  Border Security Force (BSF), the country's largest border guarding force, has decided to replace the routine physical training drills for its personnel with yoga.

The decision to replace the daily 45-minute physical training drills with yoga at all its units was taken by BSF director general K K Sharma after 1,900 personnel of the force recently completed a special training under Baba Ramdev at his facility in Haridwar.

“Yoga has been made mandatory in the force and the jawans and officers will now undergo regular training in this skill.

The routine PT exercises will be replaced by yoga,“ an officer said. He said a committee of senior officers of the force has been constituted that will suggest if, apart from yoga, any other physical exercises are required to be included in the daily regime of the 2.5 lakh personnel-strong force.

Ramdev had conducted a special 10-day session for the personnel of the force at his Patanjali yoga institute. The exercise concluded earlier this week.

KK Sharma had recently said the paramilitary force has decided to “intensify“ yoga training and the aim is to have at least one trainer in this discipline in each platoon-level formation.

Powers, jurisdiction

2011: the UPA’s Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill

Bharti Jain, Oct 15, 2021: The Times of India

Congress may have slammed as “anti-federal” the home ministry’s decision to extend BSF’s powers of seizure, search and arrest to a 50 km belt running along the international border in West Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan, but in 2011, the then UPA government had gone a step further.

The UPA had brought a bill in Rajya Sabha seeking to arm BSF with powers to search, seize and arrest in any part of the country where it is deployed resulting in considerable opposition to the proposed move.

The opposition parties then led by BJP put up a stiff resistance citing federal concerns, forcing UPA to defer the Border Security Force (Amendment) Bill in March 2012. This was despite the department-related standing committee on home affairs, then chaired by M Venkaiah Naidu, having adopted the bill in November 2011 without any changes. BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat where PM Narendra Modi was then CM, opposed the move. The proposal at the time was, however, more sweeping than the decision taken by the NDA government.

Then home minister P Chidambaram had, while seeking passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha in March 2012, underlined that BSF is regularly deployed in the hinterland “on request of the state governments” for duties ranging from internal security to countering Left wing extremism or northeast insurgency to tackling communal riots and natural calamities, even though its charter limited its mandate to border areas notified from time to time under Section 139 of the BSF Act, 1968.

He argued that an enabling provision was needed in the BSF Act to give the force powers to search, seize and arrest in the hinterland, so as to ensure its operational effectiveness. Chidambaram also highlighted that similar enabling provisions already existed in the Acts governing CRPF, ITBP and SSB.

Chidambaram informed the Rajya Sabha that only 13 of 29 states from which MHA had sought comments on the proposed bill, had reverted, with Sikkim being the lone state to oppose the bill for encroaching upon the rights of the states. West Bengal had then supported arming BSF with powers of seizure, search and arrest for duties in the hinterland, while Punjab and Assam never turned in their comments despite MHA reminders.

The October 11, 2021 notification by the MHA has extended the area of operation of BSF to a 50 km belt running along the border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, instead of 15 km earlier. Ruling party leaders in both Punjab and West Bengal have slammed the move as “anti-federal” and demanded a roll-back.

MHA sources, however, told TOI that the decision to expand the jurisdiction of BSF was taken specifically to counter the threat of drones with larger range and capability to deliver consignments of drugs and arms deeper inside Indian territory. A BSF official on Thursday told TOI that the MHA notification in no way undermines the powers or jurisdiction of the state police, as the BSF will only use its powers in relation to its charter of duties, such as tackling infiltration and drugs and arms trafficking. “The state police will continue to police the area right up to the zero line,” said an officer.

Chidambaram’s assurance in Rajya Sabha on March 29, 2012 that the BSF would be deployed only in aid of the civil power, failed to convince members, with leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley insisting that the phrase “on the request of the state” should be made part of the bill. Chidambaram however argued that doing so would warrant a similar amendment in the CRPF Act, ITBP Act and SSB Act.

As the opposition remained recalcitrant, the UPA government gave in and deferred the bill. Later in 2015, the BJP-led government withdrew the BSF (Amendment) Bill from the Rajya Sabha.

As in 2021

Deeptiman Tiwary, Oct 15, 2021: The Indian Express

The international borders in the three states where BSF’s jurisdiction has been enhanced. While the places marked here are within 50 km of the respective borders, this is not meant to represent the BSF’s jurisdiction. The BSF does not mark its jurisdiction on a map.
From: Deeptiman Tiwary, Oct 15, 2021: The Indian Express
Punjab districts under BSF jurisdiction according to Centre's orders
From: Deeptiman Tiwary, Oct 15, 2021: The Indian Express

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) up to 50 km inside the international borders in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. The BSF’s powers — which include arrest, search and seizure — were limited to up to 15 km in these states. At the same time, the Ministry has reduced BSF’s area of operation in Gujarat from 80 km from the border, to 50 km. The move, announced by a gazette notification on Monday, has been criticised by the Punjab and West Bengal governments, which have called it an attack on the federal structure and an attempt to curtail the rights of the state police.

What does the notification say?

It amends the schedule of an earlier notification of July 3, 2014 in terms of the BSF’s jurisdiction, which it outlines as: “the whole of the area comprised in the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and so much of the area comprised within a belt of fifty kilometres in the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India”.

The government said it was exercising the powers under the Border Security Force Act of 1968.


In its 2014 notification, the MHA had outlined BSF’s jurisdiction as “the whole of the area comprised in the States of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya and so much of the area comprised within a belt of eighty kilometres in the State of Gujarat, fifty kilometres in the State of Rajasthan and fifteen kilometres in the States of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India”.

What kind of powers can the BSF exercise in this jurisdiction?

Its jurisdiction has been extended only in respect of the powers it enjoys under Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Passport Act, 1967. BSF currently has powers to arrest and search under these laws. It also has powers to arrest, search and seize under the NDPS Act, Arms Act, Customs Act and certain other laws. Its jurisdiction under these laws has not been changed, meaning its powers under these will continue to be only up to 15 km inside the border in Punjab, Assam and West Bengal, and will remain as far as 80 km in Gujarat.

Why and when were these powers given to BSF?

In 1969, the BSF first got powers to arrest and search under the CrPC with respect to certain laws such as the Foreigners Act, The Passport Act, forex laws and Customs Act. BSF sources said even before 2014, they had a jurisdiction of 15 km inside the border in several states.

“At that time, border areas were sparsely populated and there were hardly any police stations for miles. To prevent trans-border crimes, it was felt necessary that BSF is given powers to arrest. While police stations have now come up near the border, they continue to be short-staffed,” a BSF officer said.

Why has the government extended the jurisdiction?

Sources said the objective of the move is to bring in uniformity and also to increase operational efficiency. “Earlier we had different jurisdictions in different states. This has been done to bring uniformity to our jurisdiction,” BSF IG (Operations) Solomon Yash Kumar Minz said.

Sources said BSF often gets information relating to crime scenes that may be out of their jurisdiction. “In West Bengal at times we get information that smugglers have gathered over 100 cows in a village and will take them to the border late in the night. If we act immediately, we can get all the cattle at one place. When they come to the border, they will be scattered and running,” an officer said.

MHA sources said the move was also necessitated due to increasing instances of drones dropping weapons and drugs in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. However, the kind of drones spotted so far do not have a range beyond 20 km.

There has been no official explanation for why BSF’s jurisdiction has not been increased under the Arms Act, Customs Act and NDPS Act, which cover most of the smuggling offences on the border and deal with far greater offences. An officer, who served in West Bengal, said this may have happened as central agencies have jurisdiction in these matters. “If BSF catches drugs beyond its jurisdiction, it can always involve the Narcotics Control Bureau, or in case of arms, the National Investigation Agency. In other matters, there may be issues with the local police,” the officer said.

Will it impact police jurisdiction?

At a basic level, the states can argue that law and order is a state subject and enhancing BSF’s jurisdiction infringes upon powers of the state government.

In 2012, then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had opposed a central government move to expand BSF’s jurisdiction. He had written to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accusing the Centre of weakening the country’s federal structure, and calling the move an attempt to “create a state within a state”.

About the new provisions, Minz said: “This is not an attack on the federal structure. Rather this is going to complement the efforts of the local police. It is an enabling provision. It’s not that the local police can’t act within the jurisdiction of the BSF. It’s just that sometimes we don’t have enough time and so BSF has been empowered to act till a greater distance and in turn strengthen the hands of the state police,” Minz said.

Asked if there could be issues with local police, Minz said, “We do everything in coordination with our sister agencies… We will inform the local police even now. The state police have better knowledge of the ground… There is no conflict with the state police here. In coming days, the state police will feel happy about these changes as they will find their state is more secure.”

Another officer pointed out that BSF cannot prosecute offenders in any case. “We can’t file chargesheets. We have to hand over every arrested individual and every seized item to the state police or Customs… There have been instances when people have been caught and the defence has argued it was outside the jurisdiction of BSF, and the accused have been let off,” the officer said.

He pointed out that in the Northeast, BSF’s jurisdiction runs throughout the states (other than Assam). “Does it mean state police are unable to function there?”

How will it be implemented?

Until now, state police and border forces have been working in tandem with minor, occasional differences. Now, with the issue taking political colour, implementation could be tricky if there are difficulties in coordination in future.

For example, be it the earlier 15 km or the enhanced 50 km, the BSF jurisdiction is not marked on a map. Sources said it is largely based on understanding between police and BSF. “If a problem arises, maybe we will devise a way to mark our jurisdiction. Currently it is a rough estimate as to which village or town is how many kilometres from the border,” a senior BSF officer said.

Another officer, who has served in Punjab, said local police often have poor understanding of the BSF jurisdiction. “Once, in Punjab, smugglers fired upon BSF over 150 m inside the Indian border when intercepted. In retaliatory fire, the smugglers were killed. The police began arguing why we had killed them when they were inside the border. It had to be explained that jurisdiction of BSF ran much deeper, and it was self-defence,” the officer said.

He said the BSF hasn’t even properly utilised its powers within 15 km. “No one goes even that far. No BSF officer wants to take up cudgels with the state police unnecessarily. After all if you can’t prosecute, you actually have no power,” he said.

See also

Yog(a): The basics

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