Riverine border fence shows tardy progress

Dhubri, Nov. 24 : The construction of a 9.3km barbed wire fencing along the Indo-Bangla international riverine border in Moslabari Char of Dhubri district has made little progress since it was started in 2006.

The fencing, being done under the pilot project, if proved to be feasible and successful, would be extended to the remaining 35km of the riverine border.

However, only 60 per cent of the work has been completed in the past four years.

Moslabari Char was under constant pressure from the All Assam Students Union (AASU) when then Union home minister Shivraj Patil came to visit the area on January 2, 2006, and decided to fence the border.

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharyya, who had accompanied Patil, had been able to prove his point about the fencing along the border that hitherto remained detrimental to national interest.

The border areas were open and Bangladeshis had free access to the areas. This encouraged trans-border smugglers to use this porous area for infiltration and rampant smuggling of cattle and other materials.

After a series of meetings, it was finally decided to go ahead with the fencing project along the riverine border, named pilot project. Nearly Rs 25 crore was sanctioned for the project.

If this fencing withstood the natural calamities, particularly flood and erosion, then it would be extended along the rest of the riverine border as well.

The fencing currently extends from Mantrirchar (border post 1039) to Moslabari (border post No. 1040/2S). This stretch is prone to smuggling and infiltration.

Officials from the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) said they had understood it was going to be an uphill task for them to implement the project as everything, from material to machinery, had to be transported to the char by boat.

South Salmara-Mancachar sub-divisional officer Swami Biswanathan said 60 per cent of the total work had been completed since 2006 and the rest of the construction would be completed by January next year.

“I shall, however, have to visit the site to assess the progress of the project and within a couple of days, I shall be able to speak about the present status of this project,” Biswanathan said.

An intelligence source said since the beginning of the fencing work in 2007, clashes between BSF jawans and cattle smugglers have been on the rise. Six separate clashes took place last year.

“On many occasions, the BSF had to fire to stop the cattle smugglers from transporting cattle to Bangladesh or to disperse village mobs which often came out to defend the smugglers,” the source said.

“Besides Moslabari, Mantrir Char, Bhogdohar and Mahamaya Char border fronts also have been identified as very sensitive for the same reasons. Hundreds of Bangladeshis often gather at night on the other side of the border with public announcement systems and abuse the BSF personnel for hours together and attempt to instigate BSF,” the source added.