Chandigarh: India`s Border Security Force (BSF) is battling an unlikely enemy along the 553-km international border with Pakistan in Punjab - fog. And it is using hot tea and extra patrolling to keep its personnel active and ensure that no intruder slips in.
With dense fog prevailing over most areas of the international border, called Radcliffe Line, the BSF has to ensure that no illegal movement or infiltration takes place through the heavily barbed-wire-fenced border.
But being fogged out by nature has not dampened spirits. Troopers of the frontier paramilitary agency to guard the international border are keeping utmost vigil even in the most trying and bone-chilling weather conditions. Night time temperatures have been varying from 0 degrees Celsius to 5 degrees Celsius.
"These days there is a thick cover of fog during night and it clears up partially late in the day. It is accompanied by biting cold. Keeping these circumstances in mind, we have increased the personnel at the border. We have also enhanced the frequency of our patrolling," Himmat Singh, BSF`s Punjab frontier inspector general (IG),said.
Himmat Singh added: "It is one of the most difficult times of the year as visibility level reduces to almost zero. There is dense fog as it is majorly a riverine area. Therefore, we have given special briefing to our troopers and told them to remain alert and be extra-cautious. We always make sure that they are in high spirits and their morale is high."
"We have also started serving our jawans posted at the international border hot tea twice between the time slot of 12 midnight to 3 to 4 a.m. Tea will help them in keeping fresh and we also make sure that they are awake."
The tea is ferried from the bases, about 100 metres to two kilometres away, to the troopers. The extra movement at night also doubles up as additional patrol, officials said.
Met officials say that any respite from ground fog in the next few days is unlikely.
"This is a natural phenomenon and it will continue for some more days. We always have dense fog at the borders during winters. We are expecting light to moderate rainfall in the coming days and weather will become clear after it," Surender Paul, meteorological director at Chandigarh, said.
The border fence, which is electrified and is located 100-500 metres inside Indian territory, runs mainly through Punjab`s Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Tarn Taran and Ferozepur districts. The fencing was erected in early 1990s to stop unchecked infiltration of trained terrorists and smugglers from the Pakistan side during Punjab`s terrorism days (1981-95).
According to the BSF IG, though the vigil along the border was very strict, attempts of infiltration from the Pakistani side could not be ruled out.
"The danger of infiltration is always there. We cannot deny it and it can happen any time. But we have alerted our troops. They are all set to maintain our border domination and ready to tackle any kind of attack," Singh said.
Despite the strong BSF presence and the barbed wire fencing, big quantities of drugs and some weapons continue to be smuggled through it.
In November 2009, the BSF had also inducted women troopers to guard the international border along with their male counterparts.
In the last 18 months, suspected terrorists in Pakistan have fired rockets and automatic gunfire into Indian territory at least five times.
Most of the incidents happened in the vicinity of the Attari border, about 30 km from the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, 250 km from here.