Opposition leaders on Thursday criticised the Centre’s decision to enhance the powers of the Border Security Force to “arrest, search and seize” within 50 kilometres from the international boundary in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.
In all the three states, the Border Security Force’s area of operation was earlier up to 15 kilometres from the international border.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala pointed out that the home ministry had reduced the force’s jurisdiction in Gujarat from 80 kilometres to 50 kilometres.
He linked the Centre’s order to the alleged smuggling of heroin through the Adani Group-operated Mundra Port in Gujarat in June and seizure of drugs worth an estimated Rs 21,000 crore from two containers at the same port in September.
Officials told News18 that the Border Security Force can only be involved in cases related to arms and ammunition, and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
In a tweet, Surjewala said the government’s move was unilateral. “Federalism dead, conspiracy clear,” he wrote.
On October 3, the Congress had alleged that the Narcotics Control Bureau’s raid on a cruise ship in Mumbai was also meant to deflect attention from the drugs seizure in Mundra Port. Actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was among those who were arrested in the raid.
In September, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence and the Customs Department had seized nearly three tonnes of heroin at the Mundra Port, making it one of India’s biggest such hauls till now. The drug, that was disguised as a consignment of semi-processed talc stones, had arrived from Afghanistan through Iran’s Bandar Abbas port.
The Congress had demanded a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the drugs haul.
“Why is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who are from Gujarat, unable to break this drug syndicate?” party spokesperson Pawan Khera had asked in September.
Meanwhile, the Trinamool Congress also opposed the Centre’s move to extend the Border Security Force’s jurisdiction and said it was an “infringement” on the rights of West Bengal, PTI reported on Thursday.
“What was the sudden need to enhance the BSF’s jurisdiction without informing the state government?” party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asked. “If the BSF has to conduct any search, they can always do it along with the state police. This has been the practice for years. It is an attack on the federal structure.”
Congress’ West Bengal unit chief Adhir Chowdhury warned the home ministry of “consequences” because of the move.
On Wednesday, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had described the move as an attack on federalism and had demanded a rollback of the decision.
Meanwhile, Assam Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Himanta Biswa Sarma welcomed the decision, citing national security.
“In coordination with state police, this move will serve as a strong deterrent for defeating cross border smuggling and illegal infiltration,” he told reporters.
The Border Security Force said the amendment will help them in effectively curbing trans-border crimes, ANI reported. Officials told The Indian Express that it was meant to “improve operational efficiency” and “crack down on smuggling rackets”.