Alleging nexus with drug smugglers, Captain wants shorter tenure for BSF personnel
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has suggested the shortening of the border tenures of the Border Security Force (BSF) to break the alleged nexus between their personnel and drug smugglers. This is a strong statement coming from no less than a chief minister and a veteran politician that shows the BSF in a poor light. It vindicates the reports appearing in sections of the media from time to time about involvement of some black sheep from the BSF in international drug smuggling. Amarinder has clearly stated that the shortening of their tenures needs to be done in order to check smuggling of narcotics from across the border.
Observers point out that just like in other services including the police there are elements in the BSF too who have been abetting the international drug mafia. “Like in any other service including the police, revenue department, forest department there are certain elements in the BSF as well who have the tendency to indulge in such activities if they continue to be at one place for a long stay. It is a bold, relevant and very important statement coming from Amarinder,” pointed a senior retired police officer of Punjab Police. It is being pointed that Amarinder is not wrong in seeking such a step from the central government.
It has been reported in the past that that there has been a 'practice of selling pickets' along the border to the smugglers by some personnel of the police and the BSF. After the Pathankot terror attack of 2016, it was aired by some some experts that the attackers could have come from across the border in the garb of drug smugglers. The selling of border pickets reportedly involves the smugglers paying hefty amounts to police and BSF personnel manning the pickets to look the other way while they move drugs across the border.
Since the beginning of this month Punjab government has gone into top gear to curb the menace of drugs after the issue came back to haunt the Amarinder government that had promised to do away with the issue within a month of coming to power ahead of the last Assembly polls. With a large number of deaths reported in June due to drug overdose, the government was compelled to wake up and launch multiple initiatives. It began with the announcement of recommending death penalty for drug peddling and smuggling by asking the centre to amend the law.
The government has been announcing one initiative after the other almost on daily basis. However, it continues to be under criticism for not arresting any of the drug lords. “Leave the big sharks. Even if the medium rung of the mafia is arrested, the message would go home and half the battle would be won,” pointed a former senior official.
It is also being pointed that unless the government generates employment, there is no way the menace can end. This is another issue for which the government has been under fire. The Opposition has been attacking the Congress regime for failing to fulfill its tall promises of a job for every household.
Many feel that the Punjab chief minister is trying to pass on the onus of tackling the drug menace to the centre. It is being said that while the government has recommended death penalty for peddlers and smugglers, the law has to be amended by the centre to be implemented nationally. This has now assumed the shape of a political issue now.
Similarly, Amarinder wrote to the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh a few days back to press for a national policy for the prevention and control of drug abuse, with a coordinated strategy for checking smuggling of narcotics into the border state.
Amarinder sought a series of measures to be taken by the central government to support the state’s efforts to fight the drug problem which is seriously impairing the future of 'our next generation'.
“We need full and active support from government of India in formulating and pursuing effective measures including the national policy for prevention and control of drug abuse,” he said.
In the letter also he urged the home ministry to ensure effective check on smuggling of drugs from across the border by the BSF, restrictions on drug plantations in the neighbouring states and formulation of a national policy to regulate and prevent drugs in the country.
He said the Punjab Police have detected and caught huge quantities of heroin and other drugs smuggled from across the international borders and added “The intelligence gathered by us in this regard is shared with BSF regularly, but unfortunately smuggling continues unabated to the detriment of our society.”
He claimed that his government has been aggressively chasing drug peddlers and smugglers to obliterate drugs from the state. He claimed that besides making every possible effort to have drug addicts treated with proper medication, the state government’s strategy is focused on strict enforcement of laws, de-addiction and prevention of drugs. He said that this has started yielding good results. He claimed that during the last few weeks, Punjab has been able to build a people's campaign against drugs. As a result, footfall in drug rehabilitation centers and Outpatient Opioid Assisted Treatment (OOAT) Centres set up by the state government has increased substantially.
Amarinder has also urged Punjabi artistes, singers, dramatists, and filmmakers to play a proactive role in complementing the state government's efforts to combat the drug menace.
Amarinder has also ordered setting up of Wi-Fi CCTVs at all the check posts along the International Border to prevent smuggling of drugs and has underlined the need for effective exchange of information with neighbouring states, as well as the central agencies.
Reviewing his government’s anti-drug campaign on Monday, he called for coordinated action against drugs. He said the recent decision to bring the Special Task Force (STF) under the purview of the Punjab Police from that of the Chief Minister's Office was also necessitated by the same. The STF would now work directly under the control of Director General of Police as in the case of the intelligence and vigilance departments.
Underlining the need for a more coordinated approach by all the state and central agencies, he said that apart from drugs,which is of course a major problem, there is a need for greater synchronisation to deal with other major crimes like trafficking of women, terrorism, arms smuggling, and unauthorised travel agents duping innocent people.