NEW DELHI: Even as Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi slammed the “anti-federal” decision of the Centre to arm BSF with powers of search, seizure and arrest in a 50-km belt along the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, instead of 15 km earlier, the BSF justified the move saying that it has established uniformity in defining the area within which the border guarding force can operate as per its charter of duties.
"The amendment effected on 11th October, 2021 establishes uniformity in defining the area within which Border Security Force can operate as per its charter of duties and execution of its role and task of border guarding in its areas of deployment. This will also enable improved operational effectiveness in curbing trans-border crime to an extent of 50 kms from the international boundary within the states of states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, running along the borders of India," BSF said in a statement on Wednesday.
Earlier, the BSF jurisdiction was fixed at 80 kms in case of Gujarat, 50 kms in case of Rajasthan and 15 kms in the case of Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, against 50 km now for all these states.
In a tweet posted hours after TOI broke the story on MHA notifying BSF's extended area of jurisdiction, the Punjab chief minister said: "I strongly condemn the GoI's unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 KM belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism". He asked home minister Amit Shah to immediately roll back "this irrational decision". Earlier, Congress leader from Punjab Manish Tewari had questioned the Centre's decision to extend BSF's jurisdiction to cover "half of Punjab", asking if the state government was consulted beforehand. He also asked Channi to oppose the move.
Shiromani Akali Dal’s Harsimrat Kaur Badal asked Channi to disclose what he had discussed with home minister Amit Shah when they met last week. “He (Channi) seems to have cleared decks for GOI's highly dangerous move to hand over half of state to @BSF_India. Couldn't have been done without Pb govt's consent!” she tweeted.
CM @CHARANJITCHANNI must disclose what he discussed with Union HM in last week's meet, as there's more than meets t… https://t.co/UvuBVqDdlg— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) 1634144537000
In another tweet, she asked the CM to either declare how his govt proposes to stop Centre from sabotaging the democratic process & federal principle in Punjab, or abdicate.
Even former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar asked Channi in a tweet, to be careful about what he asked for.
Punjab Police has been rendered toothless & have lost their relevance. In this case, CM Channi can't get away with… https://t.co/nhojTUbEOv— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) 1634144538000
“Has @CHARANJITCHANNI unwittingly managed to handover half of Punjab to Central govt (to BSF) …Punjab Police stands castigated. Do we still want more autonomy to states,” he enquired.
BSF sources however said this was a wrong interpretation as it’s powers of search, seizure and arrest while carrying out its mandate in 50 kms of the border in no way undermined the powers of the state police to carry out policing in the same stretch.
BJP's national information and technology department head Amit Malviya dismissed the opposition to Centre's decision on BSF powers, with a tweet that said: "Needless brouhaha over BSF being allowed to search and seize 50 kms inside West Bengal, Punjab and Assam, a BJP ruled state. Section 139 of the BSF Act, 1968, empowers the Centre to notify operational area. Gujarat (now 50 km from 80 earlier) and Rajasthan too have similar limits".