Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

Extending BSF’s powers won’t resolve policing problems, security threats

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BSF

Mains level : Paper 3- Issue of extending BSF's jurisdiction

Context

The Union home ministry’s order to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Forces (BSF) has caused furore.

Justification for the order

  • Increased threats: The Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan has revived serious threats of cross-border infiltration from Pakistan, while China, our other tense neighbour, has been increasingly aggressive over the past year.
  • Change in the jurisdiction: The BSF’s powers have not altered, only its jurisdiction has changed from 15 to 50 kilometres and that is for the purposes of uniformity.

Issues raised by the order

  • Lack of clarity: That India is facing heightened security threats is undeniable.
  • What is unclear is how the BSF’s extended jurisdiction helps counter these threats.
  • The recent drug seizures in Gujarat’s Adani port were successfully conducted by the customs department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence — not by the BSF, despite their jurisdiction depth of 80 kilometres in the state.
  • No need for uniformity: In the security context, arguments about uniformity are patently absurd.
  • There is no uniformity between coastal smuggling in Gujarat, cross-border infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, smuggling and drone drops in Punjab.
  • Risk of civilian resentment: The order raises the risk of civilian resentment, even clashes, given that the BSF is not trained to operate in residential and/or market areas, it will also undermine the state police forces’ morale even further.
  • Overstretching BSF: The BSF is likely to be overstretched by its new tasks.
  • Once again, that could weaken rather than strengthen the BSF’s security capabilities.

Tackling illegal migration

  • Curbing illegal migration requires coordinated action between India and its neighbours, first at the political and then at the security level.
  • The administration’s migration policies — the Citizenship Amendment Act, deporting Myanmar refugees even when they were locally welcomed, cancelling Afghan visas have made cooperation more difficult and impacting negatively on border security.
  • To think that the BSF can plug what is a government-to-government policy gap is prone to failure.

Way forward

  • Coordination: The underlying issue when it comes to tackling both smuggling and infiltration threats is coordination between our security agencies.
  • Police reform: The state police forces have weakened, therefore, the solution lies in putting police reforms on an emergency footing, not in extending the BSF’s jurisdiction.
  • That we have a grave policing problem across India is undeniable.
  • But the answer is not to write them off; it is to insulate them from political misuse while holding them accountable for rule of law lapses.
  • Moreover, to strengthen police capabilities it is vital that other security forces cooperate with local police forces, not bypass them.
  • The BSF has had a relatively good record of local police cooperation thus far.
  • When it comes to cross-border infiltration, intelligence is the key.

Conclusion

Strengthening police capabilities, improving coordination between security agencies and cooperation with state law enforcement are needed to address these issues.

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