Centre mulling master team to give national security a boost
MHA looking at proposal for Integrated Law Enforcement Centres to tackle crime, terror
INDIA is considering a proposal to set up Integrated Law Enforcement Centres (ILECs) to investigate and check all cross-border and transnational crimes that have a direct bearing on national security. The initiative will be on the lines of Frontex of the European Union, the Border Agency of the UK and the Department of Homeland Security of the US.
The new agency will bring together personnel from all law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to collaboratively detect, register and investigate cases related to border crimes, particularly cross-border terrorism, smuggling of arms and ammunition, trafficking in fake currency, narcotics, cattle and endangered species and other transnational crimes.
Keen to implement the proposal at the earliest, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has set up a committee of five senior officials drawn from different agencies to vet it.
The proposal was submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the form of an exhaustive report prepared by senior IPS officer Santosh Mehra, who is presently inspector-general of police (personnel) with the Border Security Force (BSF).
The Integrated Law Enforcement Centres will comprise personnel of the relevant border guarding force of the area — such as the BSF — Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Special Bureau (Research and Analysis Wing), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Customs, local police, anti-trafficking cells, wildlife wing/biodiversity wings of the Ministry of Environment and Forests and linguists/ interpreters.
“Integrated Law Enforcement Centres will be stationed at existing and proposed Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) established by the Land Port Authorities of India under the Ministry of Home Affairs. These centres would be given the mandate for registering, investigating and disposing all types of cross-border crimes with jurisdiction clearly defined and coinciding with Government of India regulations with respect to Border Guarding Forces,” says the report, a copy of which was accessed by The New Indian Express.
Though the BSF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) have proved their worth in the face of aggression by neighbours, when it comes to control of day-to-day cross-border crimes, these forces have a limited role to play. The existing arrangements to control cross-border crime have proved to be far from adequate, the Santosh Mehra report points out.
INDIA’S border with Bangladesh runs 4,096 km, 3,323 km with Pakistan, 1,751 km with Nepal and 1,643 km with Myanmar.
Each presents a different challenge to the force guarding it and to the security establishment, according to a report on India’s border management prepared by senior IPS officer Santosh Mehra, presently inspector-general of police (personnel) with the Border Security Force (BSF).
The report points out that border management in India has been characterised by security ambivalence and lack of strategic thinking. This is evident from (a) the absence of a policy to check infiltration/illegal migration from the eastern borders; (b) inability to stop or contain cross-border terrorism; and (c) trafficking in drugs and other contraband including fake currency.
The geomorphology of India’s borders, their historical evolution and legal status, the nature of cross-border socioeconomic-ethnic transactions, and the nature of border control and enforcement differ along various sectors of the border, the report states.
“Accordingly, the crime pattern varies along the land borders with different neighbours. For example, the India-Bangladesh border is more porous in comparison to the India-Pakistan border,” it says.
One key fact is that while several countries share a border with India, few share one with each other. “In many instances, they are landlocked. For better connectivity with the outside world, they are much dependent on India for connectivity with a sea port or for transit facilities. Unfortunately, a lot of mistrust prevails amongst the countries of this region and intra-regional trade is very low in comparison to the other regions of the world,” the report says.
Though the BSF, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) have proved their worth in the face of aggression by neighbours, when it comes to control of dayto-day cross-border crimes, these forces have a limited role to play. The existing arrangements to control cross-border crime have proved to be inadequate, the report points out.
“In fact, this aspect has drawn less responsiveness than required. For example, to control illegal movement of people across the border, the Bureau of Immigration (BOI) is the nodal agency of the central government. However, because of its limited reach, BOI has checking facilities at limited ports and the job has been delegated to the state police.
“Similarly, the Preventive Unit of Customs is the nodal agency for controlling smuggling. However, their limited staff are far from adequate to exercise such control on land borders. Most of the seizures on land borders are by Border Guarding Forces,” it says.
As per the 11th Five-Year Plan, the Centre has taken up the task of setting up integrated check posts at 13 locations on the Indo-Pakistan, Indo-Nepal, Indo-Bangladesh and IndoMyanmar borders. Some have been operationalised.
The report recommends the location of multi-agency Integrated Law Enforcement Centres (ILECs) within this architecture, drawing personnel from all departments mandated to check cross-border crime. This would obviate the need to have an office for each such agency at each site.
However, a senior official said that as law and order is a state subject, it remains to be seen what role states will have over the ILECs. “A lot depends on the Centre-state relationship,” he said, while pointing out the lacuna of relying on state police agencies, burdened by lack of resources and expertise, to handle cross-border and transnational crime.
Elaborating on this, the officer said, “After an arrest or a seizure by a border force, such cases are handed over to the local police for investigation and further disposal. However, these cases are given a sub-optimum priority by the local police.” The Mehra report also points out a similar lacuna.
“The institutional arrangements in dealing with crossborder and transnational crime are sub-optimal in an era of ever-growing complexity in such crimes. There are different agencies active on the land borders operating within the silos of their specific mandate striving for agency-specific micro-level optimisation with lesser degree of inter-agency cooperation, coordination and complementarity. In fact, many a time, inter agency competition may lead to sub-optimal outcomes at the national level. There are instances of both gaps as well as overlaps in the role, jurisdiction and working of the agencies. These old institutional arrangements appear to be not supporting an evolution in their mandate and working style in the everchanging landscape; and whenever some changes are noticed, they are insignificant and mostly incremental,” it states.
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