BSF, ITBP shelve annual battalion changeover along Pakistan, Bangladesh, China borders

NEW DELHI: The annual rotation of BSF and ITBP soldiers along the Pakistan, Bangladesh and China borders has been shelved till March next year because of the coronavirus outbreak, the top commander of the two forces has said.

Surjeet Singh Deswal, the director general of the two forces, told that only battalions deployed in “extremely hard areas” of these three important Indian frontiers will be rotated after an assessment of the outbreak situation post July.

“We have postponed the annual routine rotation of all battalions in BSF and ITBP to next year till March 31,” he said.

Deswal, a 1984-batch Indian Police Service officer of the Haryana cadre, heads the BSF in an additional capacity.

Talking about the Border Security Force, he said 12 battalions were to be replaced along the Indian fronts with Pakistan and Bangladesh, but only four units deployed in high-altitude and harsh weather conditions will be taken out if conditions permit post July.

The BSF guards the 4,096-km-long Indo-Bangla border and about 2,280 kms of the front with Pakistan.

Asked about the situation along the two borders, Deswal said the force is ensuring strict sealing of the frontiers.

Along the International Border with Pakistan, he said, there has been no incident of infiltration by terrorists till now but “we are very vigilant” and any such attempt will be dealt “much beyond the IB”.

“We will ensure that all infiltration attempts are foiled along any part of the India-Pakistan IB,” the DG said.

Asked about the annual changeover of Indo-Tibetan Border Police battalions along the 3,488-km-long Line of Actual Control with China, he said the number of soldiers for this exercise in the mountain-warfare trained force was less.

There are two ITBP battalions deployed in “extremely hard areas” and their replacement will be decided post July, Deswal said.

As per practice in the two forces, a border battalion (over 1,000 troops) is replaced every three years while those posted in hard areas are changed after two years.

A similar rotation of two ITBP battalions deployed for anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh has also been shelved this year.

The BSF and ITBP chief added that the forces were augmenting manpower across all formations by recalling”a limited number” of those on leave till now due to the nationwide lockdown.

“About 4,500 BSF personnel and around 2,000 officials in ITBP have already joined back,” the DG said.

“This was required as we needed to rotate our men and women who were doing duty for long hours (since the lockdown began on March 25),” he said.

Some of these personnel also need to go on leave in emergency cases, he said.

Deswal said personnel residing in ‘green zones’ (COVID-19 safe areas) have only been asked to return and join the nearest unit or battalion to avoid long travels.

“We have sent our own sanitised vehicles to collect such personnel. All precautions will be taken once they report back and they will be put under compulsory 14-day quarantine before they start,” he said.

The chief of the two forces added that routine transfers and postings in these forces have also been put on hold and there was “no urgency” on this front.

“Transfers already issued will be brought into effect once situation is normal and public transport facilities are available. We are not in urgency to do this,” he said.

“We will not allow any hardships to our troops,” he said.

Asked about concerns of the officers regarding a possible delay in their routine promotions and holding of departmental promotion committee (DPC) meetings, the DG said these processes were on course.

“There is no halt in DPCs and even MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) is approving all such proposals sent by us. DPC is a regular process and we are carrying it out.

“No promotion will be delayed. All offices are functioning and it is our priority to ensure that all personnel get their promotions on time. The COVID-19 situation will not hinder the process of promotions,” he said.

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