Behind the Fence

Besides guarding India’s borders, the BSF is also involved in a variety of other operations

Dilip Kumar Mekala

Among all the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), the Border Security Force (BSF) comes across as the most diverse. Guarding more than 6,600 kilometres (this includes around 240 km on the Line of Control with Pakistan, along with the 6,380 km International Border with Pakistan and Bangladesh) is no easy task. The operations become more challenging as the BSF has to deal with the varied topography of the border which ranges from snow-filled mountains to desert to swamps to riverine areas. Apart from border guarding duties, the BSF has been involved in counter insurgency operations in the Northeast, anti-naxal operations and various other duties such as disaster management and election duties. However, border guarding remains its primary mandate.

Mahila battalion on Indo-Bangladesh border

The BSF has a total of 175 battalions and three more are being raised at present. Among those, 71 battalions are on the western border with Pakistan and 82 on the eastern front. For anti-naxal operations, the BSF had pressed into action around 15 battalions. In addition seven battalions are in the reserve with the force at the moment.

On the eastern front, 75 out of the 82 battalions are engaged in border guarding duties, and the remaining troops take care of counter insurgency operations in the Northeast and also carry out disaster management duties.

On the western front, 49 out of the 71 battalions are deployed on the International Border with Pakistan, while 14 are deployed on the Line of Control (LC). Six battalions are involved in counter insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir sector. One battalion is deployed at the Integrated Check Post, Attari. One battalion is posted at the Rann of Kutch region which has a riverine border.

BSF is the first CAPF which has its own water and air wing. Into-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) also recently came up with its water wing that operates in Pangong Lake and Indus River in Jammu and Kashmir, and Brahmaputra river in Arunachal Pradesh. The water wing of the BSF operates in riverine borders of North Bengal and South Bengal, all along the Sunderbans region, Andaman Nicobar frontier, Tripura, Mizoram & Cachhar frontier, also the Rann of Kutch area in Gujarat. There are also parts of Jammu and Punjab frontiers where BSF uses its water wing.

The eastern sector is partly riverine and partly swampy with thick jungles. This area gets very heavy rainfall which poses great challenges. Many areas are inaccessible by road. The BSF has more than 30 posts in the eastern theatre which are maintained entirely by the air wing. In the Sunderban forests, the BSF provides a security cover to forest officials who were under attack by pirates about seven-eight years ago. These duties are a change from the usual border guarding roles that the force has been entrusted with.

In order to engage with the population on the borders, the BSF started two programmes - one under Border Area Development Programme (BADP), and the other under Civic Action Programme (CAP).

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