Oppn parties slam Centre after BSF area expanded, allege design to dilute federalism; BJP says decision in national interest

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 14-10-2021 21:20 IST | Created: 14-10-2021 21:20 IST
Oppn parties slam Centre after BSF area expanded, allege design to dilute federalism; BJP says decision in national interest
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Opposition parties including the Congress and the TMC on Thursday flayed the Centre's decision to extend the BSF's jurisdiction inside the international border along Punjab, West Bengal and Assam, alleging it was a design to dilute federalism and an ''infringement'' on the rights of the state.

Leaders of the BJP, however, strongly defended the move, saying it was taken in national interest and aimed at checking smuggling of drugs, arms and cows. They also rejected the opposition criticism as ''needless brouhaha''.

The Union government has amended the Border Security Force(BSF) Act to authorise the force to undertake search, seizure and arrest within a larger 50 km stretch, instead of the existing 15 km, from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a notification on October 11 amending a July, 2014 enabling provision for the BSF personnel and officers while they operate in the border areas, according to a BSF statement on Wednesday.

The Congress, which is in power in Punjab, also described the Centre's decision to grant more powers to the BSF as a ''concerted attack'' on constitutionalism while the ruling TMC claimed it was taken without consulting the West Bengal government and demanded the withdrawal of the notification.

Delhi's governing Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) called the Centre's move as ''dictatorship'', and said states should have been consulted before reducing the jurisdiction of their police.

Some SAD leaders, including party chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, were briefly detained by police in Chandigarh when they tried to march towards the Governor's residence to protest the Centre's decision, according to officials.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said this is a conspiracy to take away the powers of elected governments in states.

''There is a concerted attack on constitutionalism. There is a designed conspiracy to dilute and abolish federalism, and there is a design on part of the Modi government to take away the powers of elected governments in states by way of this order,'' he told reporters in Delhi.

''This is a dirty trick and dirty politics being played by the Modi government to usurp power through indirect means, for the BJP has become irrelevant in Punjab and to find that lost political relevance they are now misusing this power without consulting states and in absolute abrogation and derogation of the federal structure of the country,'' Surjewala alleged.

This is unacceptable as the action of the central government is completely unconstitutional, he said. Assembly elections in Punjab are due early next year.

The Trinamool Congress(TMC) spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asked what was the sudden need to expand the BSF's jurisdiction without informing the state government.

''We oppose this decision. This is an infringement on the rights of the state.

''If the BSF has to conduct any search, they can always do it along with the state police. This has been the practice for years. It is an attack on the federal structure,'' he told PTI when asked for his reaction.

Senior TMC MP Sougata Roy alleged that the Centre and Home Minister Amit Shah are trying to weaken the states while state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury warned the Union Home Ministry of ''consequences'' over the move.

The West Bengal unit of the BJP slammed the TMC for its criticism, claiming its opposition to the changes is aimed at appeasing its vote bank.

''The TMC government has failed to check cross-border infiltration and smuggling. The TMC's opposition is aimed at appeasing its vote bank,'' Sayantan Basu, the BJP's state general secretary, alleged.

Senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar asked why Congress leaders in Punjab are opposing the Centre's decision.

''The decision to give powers to BSF to search, seizure, arrest within 50 km of international borders, is in the national interest. It will help in stoppage of smuggling of drugs, arms and cows,'' Javadekar tweeted.

Echoing similar sentiments, Union Minister and BJP MP from Punjab Som Parkash said it is very strange that the Congress leaders from Punjab are opposing this step, because this ia what they have been demanding. ''They have been raising concerns about threat from across the border including smuggling of drugs and this step has been taken to check that threat''.

''Needless brouhaha over BSF being allowed to search and seize 50 km inside West Bengal, Punjab and Assam, a BJP ruled state. Section 139 of the BSF Act, 1968, empowers the Centre to notify operational area. Gujarat (now 50km from 80 earlier) and Rajasthan too have similar limits,'' BJP's Amit Malviya said in a tweet on Wednesday.

In Chandigarh, Police said the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders and supporters were briefly detained when they were marching towards the Governor's House.

However, the opposition SAD said in a statement that Badal courted arrest and was taken to the Sector 3 police station along with senior party leaders and workers in a bus.

Addressing party leaders and workers at the protest site, Badal claimed that through the new order Amritsar city, Tarn Taran, Ferozepur, Fazilka and virtually half of Punjab will come under their (BSF) domain. ''Law and order will eventually come under the Centre's control.'' Badal alleged, ''First the Centre framed the farm laws, a subject which is states' domain, and now they want to take control of law and order too.'' Meanwhile, Punjab ministers Pargat Singh and Vijay Inder Singla of the Congress addressed a press conference and also termed the Centre's decision to extend the BSF's jurisdiction as an ''attack on federalism''.

Pargat Singh also slammed former chief minister and Congress colleague Amarinder Singh, who voiced his support for the Centre's move on Wednesday.

Dubbing Amarinder's statement as unfortunate,Pargat Singh alleged that he acts like he is with the BJP.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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