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BSF to use copters for vigil along West Bengal border

By Our Special Correspondent

KOLKATA, MARCH 28. The Border Security Force will soon use, for the first time, helicopters for aerial surveillance along West Bengal's border with Bangladesh. Plans are on to requisition Russian MI-17 choppers for the purpose.

Talking to The Hindu here today, the BSF Inspector-General, R.K. Panchananda, said a need had been felt for "aerial domination in the riverine stretches where the border is particularly porous — in the mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans, and in Murshidabad and Nadia districts." The move, initially to be confined to the BSF's southern sector in the State, is expected to assist the security forces in keeping a check on trans-border crime and infiltration from Bangladesh. It would be extended to other stretches of the border in the future, he added.

There were certain stretches of the border that were dotted with char-land and where grass grew to heights that made accessibility by vehicles difficult, according to Mr. Panchananda. "Aerial surveillance will be concentrated in these areas which have an open border, there being no fencing along such stretches and where keeping a vigil from the ground is difficult." Nearly 30 per cent of the 1,150-km border in the BSF's South Bengal division falls within a riverine belt, he added. The geography of the region contributes to the high incidence of smuggling activities and other border crime.

Helicopters are already being used by the BSF along Tripura's border with Bangladesh. "There are nearly 34 border outposts in that region which are monitored from the air," Mr. Panchananda said.

Plans to set up parking zones for the helicopters in some of the border districts were being worked out by the BSF authorities in conjunction with the district administrations, he added.

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