BSF kick-starts installation of hi-tech virtual fencing at borders likely to be operational by March 2018

Given the heightened tensions on the borders, a plan to provide upgraded technology to India’s forces on the border couldn’t have come at a more opportune moment.

After a nod from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Border Security Force (BSF) has kick-started installation of a unique, indigenously designed virtual fencing system — Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) — at two places in Jammu. The system is expected to go operational by March 2018.

BSF DG KK Sharma. Image courtesy: Debobrat Ghose

“Our main thrust is to bring a sea change in guarding our borders by integrating latest technology and equipment. We’re putting up two pilot projects under CIBMS in Jammu, which is unique in the world for guarding borders. Work order has been awarded and it’s expected to go operational by March 2018,” the director general of BSF, KK Sharma, told Firstpost.

CIBMS is an integration of highly sophisticated equipment — like handheld thermal imager (HHTI), night vision devices (NVD), long-range radars, battlefield surveillance radars, etc — with manpower. It’s a virtual fencing system.

It will be a shot in the arm of the Border Security Force (BSF) – the world’s largest border force – that is engaged in guarding India’s land border, with challenges such as infiltration of terrorists across the border into Kashmir and eastern states like West Bengal and Assam, and drug and cattle smuggling, among others.

How will CIBMS function?

— Thermal imager indicates body heat signatures of any living being that moves towards Indian boundaries in the dark of the night at a distance of 3 km.
— NVD, long-range radars, battlefield surveillance radars, etc catch slightest of vibrations at shorter distances.
— Indigenously-developed infra-red intruder alarm, not visible through naked eye, alerts the BSF personnel. Anyone crossing the invisible infra-red wall within 700-metre range will get caught.
— Analytical tools identify suspicious movements and distinguish between man and animal from the shadow.
— Finally, based on inputs received, intruders (infiltrators or terrorists) will be eliminated.
— Motion sensors have been included in CIBMS to save power and reduce electricity bill of Rs 90-100 crore (due to flood lights on borders).

Under the pilot project, two CIBMS will be installed for a length of 5 km each. Once it’s successfully implemented, a similar system will be replicated at other places to protect the border.
“At present, some of these equipments are in the hands of jawans posted on the borders and the possibility of human error can’t be ruled out. But once this system becomes operational, it will be the latest in India on border-guarding, with the least human error. Israel was the first to have this system in place. We’ve the proposal to install CIBMS along Jammu and Punjab bordering Pakistan. Our emphasis is also to plug the riverine gaps and there’s a proposal to have this system installed at Dhubri district in Assam,” Sharma said.

Besides thwarting Pakistan’s constant attempt to push militants through the border into India, like it did last at Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir on 29 November 2016, countering narcotics and cattle smugglers is another big challenge for the BSF.

Not known to many, the terrorists across the border attacked the army base camp at Nagrota and killed seven army personnel. On the same night at a distance, when three other terrorists were making their way through a tunnel, the BSF tracked and neutralised them.

Despite severe constraints, the cattle smuggling, which is a complex issue due to geopolitical reasons, has declined from 20 lakh per annum in 2013 to less than 6 lakh in 2017 (as on date), with record seizure of animals in 2016.

“Bangladesh border is 4,096 km long, out of which about 950 km is unfenced due to riverine belt. It’s humanly not possible to cover this unfenced stretch. Smuggling takes place through this porous stretch, despite our patrolling and floodlights. Population on both the sides is economically dependent on cattle trade. Local politicians have their own compulsions in a democracy. While, tackling this menace, the BSF has lost many men and hundreds have been injured in clashes with smugglers. These clashes are on the rise because we’re using non-lethal weapns like pump action guns, which has emboldened the smugglers,” the DG pointed out.

“Despite several constraints, BSF has been successful in bringing down smuggling and fatalities of Bangladeshi smugglers since 2013,” he mentioned.

Besides, surveillance, BSF has initiated welfare measures like medical check up camps, distribution of books and stationery to children in the villages bordering Bangladesh.

“BSF is also providing training to boys for recruitment in para-military and police security guards. We’ve signed an MoU with Skill Development ministry so that vocational training can be provided to youth of these areas,” added Sharma.

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