Guwahati: Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Saturday painted a grim security situation in the country's border with Myanmar and Bhutan where there were reports of insurgents, weapons and drugs crossing over and said that his ministry was taking measures to effectively manage the international borders.
240 villages with over two lakh population within 10 km of the Indo-Myanmar border were living without any worthwhile security cover, Singh told a security meeting attended by the chief ministers of all northeastern states here.
"They are at the mercy of the insurgents. A similar situation prevails along the India-Bhutan border," he said calling upon the chief ministers of the region to pay attention to this crucial area of security.
"We must take care of the development along with the security of people living along the international borders. You would be glad to know that under the Border Area Development Programme (BADP), we have enhanced the share of the region from 30 per cent to 40 per cent," Singh, accompanied by his deputy Kiren Rijiju said.
He said that a committee headed by Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) R N Ravi had been constituted to suggest measures to effectively manage the Indo-Myanmar border.
The committee is likely to submit its report within the next few days and the government would take action as per its recommendations, he said.
He suggested opening and strengthening of police stations in the border areas to instill a sense of security among the people, which is crucial for successful implementation of the Centre's 'Act-East Policy'.
The Union Home minister also urged the chief ministers to provide land for border fencing by acquisition on urgent basis wherever it was pending.
Singh said the region had a huge stockpile of illegal firearms which were smuggled in from across the border and sold here and beyond.
"Existence of illegal weapons will encourage crimes and vitiate the security eco-system of the region. I would urge the chief ministers to launch sustained drives against illegal weapons and make their respective states free of such arms," he said.
Noting that Mizoram, Tripura, large parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are "almost free of insurgency", Singh said it was time deployment of central forces was reviewed in the Northeast.
"In the wake of improvement in security scenario, there is a need to review deployment of security forces in the region. At present the deployment is more than it was when the insurgency was at its peak. It does not mean reduction in deployment," Singh told a conference of North East Chief Ministers here.
The Home minister asked the chief ministers of the region to conduct a "realistic audit" of the Central Armed Police Forces in their states, assuring them of the Centre's help in the deployment of them "when actually needed".
Singh, who was accompanied by his deputy Kiren Rijiju, also said that there had been substantial strengthening of state police forces in the past few years.
"Without compromising with the security, we must plan to reduce deployment to make the environment easy and also to encourage positive thinking of outsiders about this region," he said congratulating the chief ministers on their efforts to improve the security scenario by bringing down the level of insurgency to an "all time low".
"Mizoram, Tripura, large parts of Assam and Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh, except its three eastern districts, are almost free of insurgency. There is a strong popular desire for peace in Nagaland and Manipur too," he noted.
He also noted that there had been substantial strengthening of state police forces in the past few years.
Referring to the on-going peace talks with different insurgents groups, Singh said it was on the right track and the government hoped to bring them to logical conclusions soon.
The Home Minister said several small residual insurgent groups were operating from their safe havens across the border and are engaged in kidnapping for ransom, which had almost doubled in Assam and Meghalaya.
He said in Garo Hill district of Meghalaya, some new splinter groups were kidnapping people for ransom or looting businessmen at gunpoint.
"I would like to make it absolutely clear that the Central government would not talk to such criminal elements. Such criminal activities must be dealt with firmly... I would like to reiterate and emphasize that we have zero-tolerance policy on insurgency," Singh said.
He also said most of the youths in insurgent groups were misled and they had now realised their mistakes. "They are welcome to the mainstream. However, those who have committed heinous crimes and acts of terror will have to face the law and meet the justice," Singh said.