It would be convenient to say that politics, with an eye on the ensuing Assembly elections, lies at the heart of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha’s resolution rejecting the Centre’s notification that increases the area of the Border Security Force’s jurisdiction in the state. The inconvenient truth, though, is that an element of distrust has been allowed to seep into the public discourse on a matter that essentially caters to national security. Where Centre-state unanimity and seamless BSF-police cooperation were called for, a needless controversy has taken root. The Union government cannot escape blame for its handling of the issue.
Last month’s notification extending the zone of the BSF’s operations for search, seizure and arrest from the existing 15 km from the International Border (in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam) to 50 km would, supposedly, have been premised on tackling the new cross-border challenges, like the drone weapon-drug drops. If that indeed is the case, a joint, coordinated approach would have worked better than what is being perceived as a unilateral diktat that diminishes the role and stature of the state police forces, and violates the federal structure. Time is of the essence, and a quick resolution is of paramount importance.
The Union Home Secretary is already on a visit to West Bengal, another state like Punjab that has made its displeasure over the order known. The Centre has to take the lead. The political leadership in the states should be taken on board, the apprehensions addressed, roles clarified. Both the Union and state governments, as also leaders of every political party, must go the extra mile to not let the issue fester. There is too much at stake. A security threat knocking at the doors cannot be reduced to political sloganeering and whipping up passions. A bipartisan outlook is essential.
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