Hardeep Singh (IG) BSF, Meghalaya Frontier during a briefing on Friday

Shillong: The lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a reduction in cross-border smuggling but rose once the lockdown was relaxed, said Inspector General of the Border Security Force, Meghalaya Frontier, Hardeep Singh on Friday.

In a press conference held at BSF HQ in Shillong, Singh informed that in 2020, the BSF apprehended 171 trans-border criminals. Also, 16 illegal entrants were nabbed in the border area by the BSF.

Out of this 171, 167 were smugglers from India and 4 from Bangladesh. While illegal entrants nabbed, four were Indian, nine Bangladeshis and three Nigerians.

Reacting to the arrest of Nigerians, a senior police official told EastMojo on the condition of anonymity, “Bangladesh provides a good market for narcotics. When there is a demand for drugs in India, they cross the border. Sometimes it is for delivering drugs, and on other occasions, it is to collect drug money.”

The border region in Meghalaya is prone to smuggling of cattle, narcotics, contrabands items and other various products since it is partially unfenced and the terrain is hilly.

The total value of goods seized by BSF Meghalaya was more than Rs 39 crores.

“Major items seized by the BSF include seizure of over 10,000 cattle smuggled from India to Bangladesh. 300 of these cattle are still in custody with the BSF, along with other miscellaneous items. Despite the pandemic, we have carried out our duties with dedication and sincerity. Apart from controlling crimes at border our troops, carried out other activities also,” said Singh.

During 2019-2020, Rs 81 lakh was allotted for the works under Civic action programme. Almost all of it was spent on various social works like distribution of school gadgets, solar equipment, water cisterns, sewing machines, sports items etc.

Singh added that the BSF held a meeting at various levels with the Bangladesh Border Guards (BGB) to keep the border peaceful and curb trans-border crimes. Under the Coordinated Border Management Plan, the forces carried out several joint-patrolling projects. Although there were some instances pertaining to injuries, including firing in border areas, they were exceptions and ill intentions of some groups to derail peaceful relations with their counterparts, Singh added.

Following the press conference, Singh told EastMojo that the lack of manpower makes it difficult for the troops to man the long border. “When a pair of troops are manning the border, they can only see a short distance. By then, people carrying out smuggling activities on the other end may have already carried out the activities which are why such activities occur,” Singh told EastMojo.

During the press briefing, Singh mentioned that out of 448 km of the borders of Meghalaya with Bangladesh, almost 70% of the border is fenced. “The order has already been given to the construction agency, and it is under process. This will be completed soon. In a few patches, we need clearance from the Bangladesh government, and we have taken it up with them. We will soon receive the clearance, and are hopeful that the whole border would be fenced soon,” said Singh.

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