States equally responsible for border security: Amit Shah

KOLKATA: At the Eastern Zonal Council meeting on Saturday, Union home minister Amit Shah sought the state governments of West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand and Sikkim to equally share the responsibility with the Border Security Force (BSF) in protecting the international borders of the country in the region.

Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Jharkhand Mamata Banerjee and Hemant Soren, respectively, Bihar’s deputy chief minister Tejaswi Yajav and two Cabinet ministers from Odisha and Sikkim attended the meeting at Nabanna, in Howrah.

Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla and BSF chief Pankaj Kumar Singh were also present among other Central agency officials at the meet. According to sources, Shah underlined that the states have as much responsibility as the BSF in securing the border as the Centre takes a serious look into the matter.

The Union home minister made the assertion when some of the states, including Bengal, blamed the BSF for border crimes like smuggling. He also proposed an inter-state committee with representatives from Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand for smooth water sharing from dams.

Shah later held a separate meeting with Banerjee over 15 minutes at her request in her chamber, which has triggered fresh speculation about a bonhomie between them.

West Bengal’s Leader of the Opposition Suvendu Adhikari, later claimed that Mr Shah discussed with Ms Banerjee the requirements of land for building 72 BSF border outposts in the state, for which the Trinamul Congress government is not providing land. Sources, however, revealed that the TMC chief raised the Central agencies’ coercive steps only against her party leaders in various cases.

During his two-day tour to the state, Mr Shah met the state BJP leadership on Friday evening and took reports on the party’s organisational strength at the booth level in comparison to that of the TMC. He also directed them to strengthen the BJP’s presence at the booths ahead of the panchayat elections.