Kolkata/New Delhi: A marine battalion comprising more than 1,100 personnel, a squadron of about 40 drones and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) are part of a plan devised by the BSF to secure the strategic Sunderbans mangrove region along the India-Bangladesh border against smuggling and infiltration.
The blueprint of the plan has been prepared by the Eastern Command of the border force based in Kolkata and a final approval and financial sanction from the Union Home Ministry in Delhi is awaited, official sources told PTI.
The Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest cover region is an archipelago of over 100 islands and a complex network of streams, rivers, tidal creeks and channels spread over an area of 9,630 sq km in India. The rest falls in Bangladesh.
It lies on the delta of the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers in the Bay of Bengal.
“Sunderbans is a strategic and vital area along the India-Bangladesh international border. Its effective domination and security is the need of the hour as there are inputs suggesting this tricky forest and riverine area could be used for cross-border infiltration of terrorists and criminals,” a senior officer said.
The force has hence decided to raise an exclusive marine battalion of its personnel for this task, deploy sturdy drones that can undertake long-haul surveillance sorties and station some ATVs to access these areas for better patrolling, the officer said.
Another officer said the new battalion will have more than 1,100 trained personnel and about 40 large drones and 12-14 ATVs will be deployed.
The plan will be set in motion once the proposal is approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the second officer said.
The BSF, at present, patrols the Sunderbans area with a fleet of about 50 small and large speedboats and vessels. The vessels are called floating border outposts (BoPs).
The border force is tasked with guarding the entire 4,096 km of the India-Bangladesh border on India’s eastern flank, of which 2,216.7 km lies in West Bengal. Out of this 2,216.7 km, 300 km is the riverine border in the Sunderbans.
The force has also communicated its plan to the West Bengal government seeking its nod for stationing a small team of its patrol parties (personnel on foot patrol) in Forest Department ‘chowkis’ located in the Sunderbans, which falls under the jurisdiction of two districts — North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas.
The BSF patrol teams currently stay in the floating BoPs that constantly keep moving in the Sunderbans.