MHA goes on a shopping spree to upgrade the forces with all terrain vehicles, interceptor boats and modern communication gadgets
By Subhashis Mittra
Eight Dhuv helicopters, three fixed-wing medium lift transport aircraft for BSF, interceptor boats, all terrain vehicles, modern communication gadgets, over 10,000 assault rifles and nearly 2,000 pistols besides some 60,000 bullet proof jackets for its Paramilitary forces — an intense shopping exercise for the home ministry.
The Border Security Force (BSF) has embarked on a major expansion of its air wing in a bid to give thrust to its border patrol and internal security roles in the context of stepped up vigil along the country’s borders. The force is in the process of adding eight Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and three fixed-wing medium lift transport aircraft to its existing fleet. The cabinet has sanctioned Rs 44 crore to enable BSF acquire the helicopters and the transport.
“We will receive all the choppers by March 2010,” a senior BSF officer said. The BSF guards the 4,096km-long Indo-Bangladesh border and 3,268km-long border with Pakistan which includes about 2,526 km of International Border and 742-km Line of Control.
The fleet now comprises of six MI-17 helicopters, an Embraer, two King Air and two Avro aircraft.
The air wing of BSF had hit an air pocket owing to dire shortage of pilots. This brought down the serviceability of its choppers to an all-time low. “Unfortunately, we had a shortage of pilots and were not in a position to fly more than one of our six helicopters at any given time. But things have turned around and the situation is now looking up,” said a senior official dealing with internal security. He added, “We have given our helicopters to the Naxal-affected states for surveillance and also to airlift counter-insurgency troops. They have also been used for action against Pakistan intruders, particularly fishermen who ventured into our territory regardless of warning. By means of slithering operations in the Sir Creek area, we have foiled their attempts and caught their assets. From intelligence gathered by the air force and the BSF, it is obvious that they are no longer coming into the Sir Creek area.” However, the force continues to carry out aerial surveillance in the region to thwart attempts at seaborne infiltration.
Out of its two lakh plus force, BSF has deployed about 45,000 personnel (45 battalions) on the India-Pakistan border from Gujarat to Jammu and Kashmir and about 60,000 (60 battalions) along the Indo-Bangla border.
The government has approved Rs 360 crore plan for BSF to raise 29 new battalions comprising nearly 30,000 personnel within the next five years increasing its strength to nearly two lakh. With this, the strength of BSF will go up to 186 battalions, comprising about 1.90 lakh personnel.
The Union Government has released Rs 1,158 crore for modernisation of the state police forces. A bulk of this money has been given to seven Maoist-affected and four insurgency-prone states.
Under Modernisation of Police Force (MPF) scheme, the Union home ministry provides financial assistance to state governments for procurement of weapons, purchase of vehicles as well as security surveillance, communication and forensic science equipments.
Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and West Bengal are facing threat from the left wing ultras and insurgency activities are rampant in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Manipur and Nagaland, hence the heavy investment.
Under Police Modernisation Scheme, Rs 7.95 crore has been earmarked for the BSF for purchase of four All-Terrain Vehicles while Rs 144 crore has been allocated to the CRPF for buying 10,147 assault rifles. Besides, 1,915 Glock-17 pistols are to be procured for the CRPF, ITBP, Delhi Police and Himachal Pradesh. The Centre-State MoU for the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) project has been signed by all 35 States/UTs and an amount of Rs 42.38 crore has been released to 20 States.