The India-Bangladesh border along the Meghalaya frontier continues to remain an area at high risk of illegal activities but authorities hope that the completion of the border fence will help bring a halt to these.
During an interaction with the press on Friday, Inspector General of the Border Security Force (BSF) Meghalaya Frontier, Hardeep Singh, said, “The areas under the Meghalaya frontier are prone to smuggling of cattle, narcotics, contraband items and other products because it is partially unfenced, unlit and hilly in terrain.”
Despite these challenges, the border force made seizures valued at more than Rs 39 crore in 2020.
Around 70 percent of the 443km Meghalaya-Bangladesh border has been fenced, with the BSF directing the construction agency to expedite the erection of fencing on the remaining 30 percent.
The fence is built within Indian territory as a treaty with Bangladesh forbids construction on the international boundary itself. However, where locals have requested this, the BSF has raised the issue with the relevant Deputy Commissioners and Meghalaya Chief Secretary.
There are also around 13 patches along the border in Meghalaya where India will need to obtain clearance from Bangladesh before constructing the fence but Singh hopes that the border will be fenced “very soon”.
Land acquisition is another hurdle in the unfenced areas and this precludes any firm date for completion being provided. Singh, though, said that funds for land acquisition have already been allocated and the Chief Secretary has given his assurance that the exercise will be complete shortly with necessary payments made to landowners.
Meanwhile, the Inspector General also informed that the BSF had seized around 10,000 cattle that smugglers had aimed to transport illegally into Bangladesh. Smuggling had fallen silent for nearly five months following the outbreak of Covid-19 last year but picked up again once the lockdown was lifted and inter-state movement of vehicles resumed.
Hardeep Singh also said that 171 trans-border criminals were apprehended by the BSF last year, with the vast majority of these being Indian nationals (167) and just four being Bangladeshis.
In addition, 16 illegal entrants were nabbed by the border sentinels, of whom four were Indians, nine were Bangladeshis and three were Nigerians.
Singh then described relations between the BSF and Border Guards Bangladesh as cordial and officials of the two forces hold regular meetings at various levels to keep the border peaceful and curb crime. Joint patrols were also carried out from time to time.
“Although there were some instances pertaining to injuries and firing on border areas, those were exceptions and were the ill intentions of some groups to derail the peaceful relations with our counterpart,” he said.