Focussing on IT Capabilities : M L Kumawat, Border Security Force, Ministry of Home Affairs,Government of India

Government of India has sanctioned 3500 crores of rupees for the modernisation of the forces, out of which 500 plus crores are being used for computerisation and IT”

What are the biggest challenges Border Security Force (BSF) as an organisation is facing?

India has a 15000 km long land border and 7500 km long coastline border, out of which only 500 km is guarded by the army. BSF on the India-Pakistan border and the Bangladesh border is guarding 95% of the border. The biggest challenge we face in undertaking our task are the difficulties of  operating in a variety of geographical terrain and also suiting the needs of a variety of linguistic zones spread across India. Unlike Israel which has only desert border, India has border in the form of desert, mountains, swampy land, coastline etc. and so its a great challenge to be able to guard all these variety of border areas with equal expertize. Moreover, a BSF jawan has to speak Bengali in the Eastern part of the country whereas on the Western border they have to interact in Gujarati Punjabi etc., so one can well imagine how many languages a BSF jawan has to be well-versed in order to be able to operate effectively and efficiently. Then you have terrorist groups like jaish-a-mohammad and lashkar-a-toiba threatening to attack and destroy India, again here also BSF as an organisation will bear the first on-slaught of these terrorist attacks. 

How does BSF address the issue of capacity building?

BSF has grown since its inception in 1965. We initially had only 25 battalions but today we have around 157 battalions in total. Recently Government of India has sanctioned another 27 battalions, 9 sectors and 3 more frontiers to BSF which will be raised in a phased manner in the next five years in order to strengthen our Eastern as well as our western border area security. Training is a very important area of focus within BSF towards the capacity building of the organisation as well as that of individuals. Infact we have a number of training institutions and many of our centres have been declared as centres of excellence by government of India. Our BSF training academy at Takenpur in Madhya Pradesh is an center of excellence where our senior officials are trained. We organise in-service progranmmes, moreover in addition to training academy here we also have 9 training centres to train our constables and sub-inspectors. Then we have a national dog training centre where dogs are trained in sniffing and tracking. We also have a motor-vehicle and weapons training centre at Indore.

What are the steps that you have taken towards the IT education of your troops?

From the ground level itself we have three kinds of trainings to build on the IT capabilities of our staff. First, is the training within the organisation which comprises of training like frontier level training, sector level training and training in signals for which we have two two schools in Delhi and Bangalore specifically meant to meet the needs of IT related needs.  Then we have also outsourced IT training to DOECC approved institutions to conduct such classes for BSF. Thirdly, we have some very good radio technicians from CDAC Noida conducting training sessions for our staff on network issues as well as trouble shooting. At the headquarters we have a communication wing and a computer directorate wherein a DIG level officer is mandated as the chief to take care of the computerisation of the organisation. Then we have a Internet-prahery programme through which we are planning to connect all our 1400 plus border out-posts, 10 frontiers and 157 battalions to each other. So in the next one or two years we plan to deal with all our administrative as well as operational requirements will be met through Internet.

To begin with we have already computerised all the personal data of the all our recruits like salary, pension, leave, service details. On the BSF website every one has an account which can be initially accessed using the regimental number as the user name and password. Later this password and the user name can be changed. Now, the salaries of each jawans is credited into their account which they can withdraw using their ATM cards, moreover even their families back in their villages can withdraw from the salary account using the ad-on cards. The services of this BSF website is available to 775 of our border outposts also, where ever VSAT facility is in place. And this programme towards computerisation of all the personal data also started only two years ago in BSF, earlier all these processes were carried out manually.

BSF has provision for online tendering, what has been the response towards these e-Tenders?

Many of our tenders are global tenders so the directive is to put them on the Internet as well as in the print form in the newspaper. Without using the medium of the Internet we cannot expect to reach out to a global audience spread out across  the world. Interestingly, the response to our online tenders have been good because many a times we get requests to change our technical quality specifications that we might have outlined in our e-Tenders.

What are the technological provisions you have made in order to carry out your duties effectively?

We are also planning to use Geographical Information Systems (GIS), for our border areas are very challenging. There are hardly any landmarks, so in order to monitor the features, take 3Dpictures, and also to see if any new recent developments have come about, this GIS apparatus will be of great help. We already have in place video-conferencing facilities with our ten frontiers and our training centres. Moreover, in another ten days we are executing video conferencing through GSM technology  which will connect us to border out-posts and also enable us to see and talk to these men in the border areas without even having to move out of ones own office premise. In addition we already have CDMA technology in place for the same purpose.

Even Government of India has sanctioned 3500 crores of rupees for the modernisation of the forces, out of which 500 plus crores are being used for computerisation and  IT, and the rest are being used for acquiring equipments like night-vision devices, weaponry etc. Right now Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is developing a technology which will enable all control rooms across Delhi and across the country to stay connected thereby allowing for information sharing between various departments. And we are proud to say that a personnel from BSF is only developing this technology for MHA. This technology once ready will not only ensure information sharing but would enable online transfer of  files.

There must be areas where these CDMA and GSM based communication devices will also not work due to lack of towers. What is alternate technology  BSF uses in those ares?

In cases where CDMA and GSM would not work, we are making use of optical fibres for which  pilot projects are being launched shortly; and also V-SAT and  satellite phones are quiet handy and useful in these areas.

BSF had plans to put integrated cameras on these international border to better secure them, so what is the development on that front?

Government of India had plans for integrated check-posts for both Indo-Pakistan as well as Indo-Bangladesh borders. You must be aware of  Attari-Wagah border and the Petrapole border which will be the most modern IT  integrated borders with a variety of facilities available. Regarding camera work is going on at good pace.

Within BSF what are the steps being taken to deal with this hi-tech crime effectively?

In order to check these hi-tech crimes which is using satellite phones, mobiles and Internet; as well as to address other connectivity needs of BSF we are laying down Tetra network along the border areas which are secure network capable of providing connectivity even while on the move. This Tetra network will in turn be connected to the wide area network of BSF which we already midway due to be completed by Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) in another two to three months. This infrastructure will cover the area from Delhi to all the 155 battalions that we have of BSF. And from battalions to border outposts connectivity needs will be met through three kinds of  infrastructure which are constituted of VSAT satellite terminal, PSTN lines and High Frequency (HF) Radio technology.

Once this Tetra network is in place all these surveillance cameras on the border will also be connected to it or not? Where would be the data centre for the storage of all this data collected through this Tetra network?

Yes, once this Tetra network is fully in in place we will have all these surveillance cameras attached to it. The data centre for it all will be set up in Delhi. The cold recovery for this data centre will be in Bangalore and the hot recovery of this data centre will be in Calcutta. The data centre will also be with each of the frontiers.
Intranet Prahari is another good initiative being taken up by BSF can you tell us the updates on this programme?

Intranet Prahari is like a local area network, which will in-turn be connected to the wide area network. This will be like a paperless office right up to the battalion level; all papers, files will be sent through Internet. This project has already been sanctioned and in the next six to eight months it should be fully implemented.