SSB deploys unarmed 'smiling' squads at Nepal, Bhutan borders
In a unique initiative, border guarding force SSB has replaced its gun-toting troops with a 'smiling' non-combatised personnel team to interact and frisk people who cross-over to India from the international borders of Nepal and Bhutan.
New Delhi: In a unique initiative, border guarding force SSB has replaced its gun-toting troops with a 'smiling' non-combatised personnel team to interact and frisk people who cross-over to India from the international borders of Nepal and Bhutan.
The new "interactive" protocol has been put in place by the Sashastra Seema Bal keeping in mind India's good relations with these two eastern neighbours and the fact that scores of civilians cross-over to both the sides for their regular business and visits.
"We have historic relations with both the countries and crossing over into each other territories is allowed as the borders are open. So, we decided to change the system and deploy smart non-uniformed men and women on the front and put the armed personnel at a distance for keeping an unobtrusive eye on the activities at these two international border," SSB Director General BD Sharma told a news agency.
A total of 100 personnel, called 'Interaction Teams', have been initially deployed at eight locations along these two frontiers under a 'pilot project' and if the exercise is successful, the force will deploy these teams at all authorised border crossing points along the 1,751-km Nepal and 699-km Bhutan borders.
These personnel, the SSB chief said, will be deployed at "all the times" when the borders are open and will sport a flashing green-coloured jacket with SSB insignia embossed on them and cordially help those who cross the borders.
"Every team will have a women personnel in their strength and will be armed with security frisking gadgets like hand held scanners and others. These men and women of our civilian component have been trained in public dealing skills and polite interaction etiquettes," Sharma said.
The first-of-its kind step, sources said, was also taken after the SSB headquarters here received some complaints of high-handedness of its personnel which was taken seriously by the force.
The DG recently visited both the frontiers to lay the road map before putting the plan on ground.The first two teams have been placed last week at Panitanki border area along the Indo-Nepal border and Jaigaon along the Indo-Bhutan border while transit routes are at Banbasa under Ranikhet frontier, Raxaul and Jogbani under Patna, Sonauli and Rupedia under Lucknow (along Indo-Nepal border) and Tarranga under Guwahati border area, where the Bhutan border runs along India.
These teams, Sharma said, have been trained and taught the customs and culture prevalent in the two countries, their international treaties with India, soft skills to interact with locals and visitors, rights and duties of foreign citizens arriving in India and existing regulations in commerce and trade operational between the neighbours.
The SSB is the only paramilitary in the country which has a large strength of non-uniform and unarmed personnel who were enrolled in the force to gather intelligence in frontier areas and conduct civic action welfare works for the border population where, many times, the local administration is not present.
Officials said the force has picked up some of its bright and trained personnel for this task but without letting down any vigil and the mandate of border security at these two frontiers which are considered notorious for the movements of terrorists, insurgents and smuggling of fake Indian currency notes and narcotics among others.
"The civilian team can undertake search and seizure and inform any dubious person or activity to their armed colleagues who execute their required statutory powers in this regard," a senior official said, adding, CCTV cameras have been placed at authorised crossings to monitor the activities of the new initiative.
The SSB was raised in 1963 in the aftermath of the China war and its operational control was given to the Union Home Ministry from the Cabinet Secretariat after the 1999 Kargil conflict.