Ashok Kumar, IG (Administration), BSF

BSF is planning to acquire Motion Sensor Alarms and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance and early warning along the porus Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla borders, says Ashok Kumar, IG (Administration), BSF to Elets News Network’s Gautam Debroy in an interview

Tell us about different aspects of the Border Security Force (BSF).

Border Security Force (BSF) is the premier border guarding force of the country, mainly guarding the Indo-Pak and the Indo-Bangla borders. It is the first line of defence, as the Army usually stands behind, except along the Line of Control. BSF is a key security force of the country also because it is guarding the crucial Indo-Pak border.

From 25 battalions in 1965, the present strength of the force has gone up to 178 battalions. We have deployed more than 250,000 personnel along the borders and elsewhere. It is manning over 1,882 land border outposts and 18 marine border outposts.

A unique force with both ‘peace time’ and ‘war time’ roles, the BSF has over the last five decades grown up to be one of the most complex and well-managed border forces in the world, with multiple accolades and achievements to its name. During the last one year, BSF had to face some of its toughest challenges in the form of heaviest-ever cross-border firing. In Odisha and Chhattisgarh, currently there are 15 battalions deployed to curb the growing threat of Left wing extremism. In the East, the Coordinated Border Management Plan signed between India and Bangladesh is helping to resolve minor differences and improve relationships.

Every force must modernise itself to stay up-to-date and ready to meet any challenge. Any modernisation plan for BSF?

With the government having approved a five-year Modernisation Plan – II (2012 – 2017), entailing a financial outlay of Rs 4,570 crore, the force is committed to completely modernise its capabilities. Specific emphasis is being laid on providing the most technologically advanced gear that goes a long way in protecting the life of a Jawan and driving operational efficiency. Investment in training of personnel is also of paramount importance, with basic fundamental and in-service professional trainings across the BSF institutions and special training schools.

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Tell us a little about the welfare schemes implemented for BSF personnel and their dependents?

Under its welfare initiatives, BSF has provided employment to more than 600 dependents of the personnel killed in action and allocated Rs 6 crore towards housing across 10 locations over the last three years. In order to facilitate resolution of pension-related issues, the force has set up three Pension Adalats at Jammu, Dehradun and Hazaribagh during the current year. BSF also launched the ‘Golden Jubilee Prahari Kavach’ scheme — a life insurance policy that will be managed in-house and ensure higher cover and timely payment to the family of the deceased or disabled.

How much use of Information Technology is made by BSF as an organisation?

Now-a-days, most of the work is IT based. We have our own IT projects, which ensure a secure communication network for us. And we are using it frequently. Although we are using IT mainly for communication between different units and different establishments of the force, it is very useful for communication in the border areas as well. With the use of IT, much of our work has become paperless now-a-days.

We have also set up an interactive platform for e-suggestions to promote participative planning of welfare scheme. Internet Presence Provider (IPP)-based Grievance Redressal system has also been introduced with user-friendly features.

How come despite several steps taken by your agency, influx of illegal migrants continues from some neighbouring countries?

Illegal immigration is certainly an issue which is not at all desirable. We already have too much population in the country, so we don’t need any more people here. We do our best to check the illegal immigration. But in spite of several measures being adopted to stop such immigration, certain geographical conditions as well as riverine areas have been posing us a challenge.

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In order to protect the border where fencing is yet to come up or the terrain is challenging, the BSF is considering Motion Sensor Alarms (MSA) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance and early warning. The Air units will see introduction of 8 Mi-17 V5 helicopters to assist in border management and anti-Naxal operations, while the Water wing will see induction of 3 new floating Border Outposts (BOPs) and 4 fast-attack crafts that will assist in maritime capabilities in the Creek and Sunderban areas.

Although we are using IT mainly for communication between different units and different establishments of the force, it is very useful for communication in the border areas as well

You have started using non-lethal weapons in the Eastern sector. Any benefit from this?

Being an armed force of the Union and tasked with the protection of country’s borders, use of arms has been an integral part of BSF’s functioning. Stopping cross-border crime, preventing infiltration of criminals and anti-national elements, upholding the sanctity of international borders and securing the border population — all require effective use of fire power!

Yet BSF is bound by the law of the land. The use of force has to be proportionate to the threat perceived. Hence, to cater to a wide spectrum of possible violent situations, it was decided to widen the scope of possible responses. The 1.2 inch calibre pump action gun, manufactured by the Small Arms Factory of the Government of India, was introduced as a personnel weapon in BSF, in required numbers, to substitute the INSAS rifles.

The strategy was effective and fatality figures came down. Armed with this new weapon, the border guards feel more confident of handling a less challenging situation, and if need be, they can always revert to their INSAS in self-defence.