A report on border security tabled by Parliament Standing Committee on Home Affairs in Rajya Sabha in the just concluded budget session, has pointed towards many security loopholes in the India Bangladesh Border.
The report, which was exclusively accessed by India Today, also talks about a 'deep and wide' cattle smuggling nexus at the India-Bangladesh border.
The committee is headed by Former Home Minister P Chidambaram.
WHAT THE COMMITTEE STATES
Due to vulnerable borders, India has witnessed numerous cross-border terrorist attacks. The committee took up this subject due to its crucial importance particularly because borders have now become really vulnerable from the security point of view.
The committee, during the course of examination, detected certain major systemic inadequacies which are of cumulative nature, emerging over a period of time.
The committee in this report has dealt with many issues pertaining to capacity building and strengthening of borders and the institutional mechanisms that are functioning for the security of the country.
ON CATTLE SMUGGLING ACROSS INDIA-BANGLADESH BORDER
The committee is distressed to note that despite several measures taken by the BSF, the problem of cattle smuggling persists along IBB.
"Committee is particularly anguished to note that West Bengal state government has failed to implement its own order dated 01.09.2003 that outlaws existence of any cattle haats within 8 kms of border area," report states.
On this, the committee recommended that the state government of West Bengal should take up steps to cancel licenses of all cattle haats that are illegally functioning within 8 kms of border area and hold the officials responsible for illegally issuing renewing licenses to these haats.
The committee also recommended, "Mass movement and trading of cattle should be prohibited within 15 kms of border and steps may be initiated to move all cattle haats located within 15 kms of border to the hinterland."
Committee notes that the auction of seized cattle by customs officials is misused by the cattle smugglers who keep buying the auctioned cattle again and again.
It also recommended that auction of seized cattle must be banned in the states bordering India Bangladesh Border and the customs department may be requested to arrange for transportation of the seized cattle to states other than the border states and hold auction there.
The Parliament Standing Committee, which has members from across party line, also agreed that the mass movement of cattle occurs from all states towards West Bengal and Assam and once they reach border areas it becomes extremely difficult to stop their movement across the border.
The Committee in strong words stated in its report, "there is a wide and deeply entrenched nexus due to which this menace has proliferated and government needs to strike at the roots of the nexus, if it has to completely curb this problem."
The committee, in the first instance, takes serious note of the fact that the proposal of constructing 509 BOPs along India Pakistan Border (IPB) and India Bangladesh Border (IBB) to reduce the inter- BOP distance to 3.5 kilometres has been revised and reduced to 422 BOPs.
Reducing inter- BOP distance is very crucial for the security of the country and to keep a tab on the activities going on the border. But even the reduced target was not achieved and only 97 BOPs out of 326 BOPs have been completed by the end of 2016 along IBB.
Committee recommends that the original plan of constructing 509 BOPs to reduce inter-BOP distance to 3.5 km may be reconsidered in the interest of the security of the nation.
BORDER FENCING ALONG IBB
Committee notes with anguish the extremely slow pace of construction of fencing along IBB. The ministry was able to complete only 21 km of fencing in 17 months since July 2015.
Committee notes that a long stretch of 423.34 km has remained unfenced due to non-feasibility of physical barrier and deployment of non physical barriers is still in its testing phase and will require time before its implementation.
Committee recommended that in the areas that are hotspots for FICN and cattle smuggling, fencing projects should be prioritised and if fencing, in such areas is not feasible then the ministry must increase the deployment of forces and intensify round the clock surveillance till such areas are secured through implementation of non physical barriers.
BORDER FLODDLIGHTS ALONG IBB
Committee notes that almost until 528 km of border, where floodlights are feasible and have been sanctioned is yet to be floodlit.
Lack of floodlights on the border allows the smugglers to perpetrate their devious activities during night.
The committee recommended that the ministry must fast track the floodlights project and complete it at the earliest. The committee also recommends short term measures. It must provide adequate long range night vision equipment to all the border outposts situated in areas that lack floodlights.