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

Synopsis: Flaws in the security architecture and measures needed to fill the void.


Union home ministry extended the jurisdiction of the Border Security Forces (BSF) from 15 to 50 kms, citing uniformity as the reason.

The decision appears to have been taken without consulting the states whose police forces are directly affected by it, and is seen as a step towards undermining India’s federal structure.

Can BSF’s extended jurisdiction help counter security threats?

There is no uniformity between coastal smuggling in Gujarat, cross-border infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir, smuggling and drone drops in Punjab, or illegal migration to Assam. Hence, in the security context, argument about uniformity is not full-proof.

Tackling each one requires different capabilities, as our own experience in tackling such threats indicates.

BSF is likely to be overstretched by its new tasks that could weaken rather than strengthen the BSF’s security capabilities. It happened in case of CRPF over a decade ago.

Illegal migration requires coordinated action between India and its neighbours, first at the political and then at the security level, often found missing.

It 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.

What should be done?

The solution lies in putting police reforms on an emergency footing, not in extending the BSF’s jurisdiction.

Rather than extending jurisdiction area, exploring technologies that might improve the BSF’s intercept and destroy capabilities is needed.

When it comes to cross-border infiltration, intelligence is the key.

A government-to-government interaction over security, is a precursor to coordination of security agencies.

To tackle both smuggling and infiltration threats, coordination between our security agencies is needed.

State police forces have huge political interference. It is needed to insulate them from political misuse while holding them accountable for rule of law lapses.

Source: This post is based on the article “Extending BSF’s powers won’t resolve policing problems, security threats” published in “The Indian Express” on 21st October 2021.

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