India and Bangladesh have taken a "major decision" to erect a new fence to secure over 250 villages ahead of the present barbed-wire fence along the International Border (IB) to curb cross-border crime and instil a sense of security among the people living in the area.
The decision was taken at the bi-annual director general-level talks between the Border Security Force (BSF) and its counterpart Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) which concluded in New Delhi on Tuesday, Times of India reported quoting PTI.
"We have taken a major decision to erect a single-row fence for villages that are ahead of the present fencing but behind the IB. This well help in curbing cross-border crimes, smuggling instances and will instil a sense of security in the border population. The Bangladesh government and the BGB have given us the permission to do so," BSF chief KK Sharma said after signing the joint record of discussions with BGB chief Maj Gen Aziz Ahmed.
He said the decision would affect 148 villages "fully" ahead of the existing border fence and 137 "partially" ahead of it.
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"Most of these villages are in West Bengal, while a few are in other Indian states sharing the border with Bangladesh. As the population lives and works here, the fence will have gates for people to cross over to the other side and come back," Sharma said.
The BGB DG said that the situation in these villages was "very challenging" and the forces did not want them to get divided by a fence which would affect the lives of the residents.
"We will ensure that there are no objections from our side when the fence is erected. We need a humanitarian approach and it [the new fence] could be done as the present positive relation between India and Bangladesh is an example that is nowhere to be seen in the world," he said.
Both the DGs said that regular issues between the two forces such as cattle-smuggling and circulation of Fake Indian Currency Notes were discussed by the two sides.
"The fake currency menace has seen some reduction but much more needs to be done to bring this criminal activity further down," Sharma said.
Cattle smuggling a major concern
Maj Gen Aziz said that both the sides were sharing "a lot of information," adding that his country had been cooperating with the BSF in curbing cattle-smuggling from India to Bangladesh.
Terming cattle smuggling an “organised crime,” the BSF chief said that they would be more active in registering FIRs and naming culprits therein, to further clamp down on this illegal activity, “worth hundreds of crores,” across the Indo-Bangla border.
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Sharma said that BSF's field commanders and other top brass had been directed to meet state police officials and ask them to take these FIRs to their logical legal conclusion.
“We have lodged hundreds of cases in the recent past against cattle smuggling instances. We have urged police to conduct investigations and check the sources of money in this illegal trade,” he added.
Cattle are reaching states like West Bengal, bordering Bangladesh, from the hinterland. As slaughter is not banned in West Bengal, there is no bar on cattle coming from various states, Sharma said, adding that three BSF jawans had been killed while 150 injured since last year while checking cattle smuggling.
BSF officials earlier said there has been a 70% fall in cattle smuggling incidents along this border over the last year after the border guarding force began a big crackdown.
According to rights group Ain o Salish Kendra, the BSF shot dead 21 Bangladeshis and tortured to death six others along the border from January to September. The reason behind another death could not be ascertained.
At least 28 others were injured in attacks by the BSF personnel and 19 abducted during the same time. All but one were returned to the Bangladesh authorities.
Apart from some cattle traders and trespassers, the victims include innocent farmers and teenagers working near the border.