Rajnath talks Darjeeling, border safety with Didi

Rajnath Singh Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
Kolkata: The standoff between the Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee governments over force deployment in Darjeeling didn't come in the way of Union home minister Rajnath Singh's meeting with heads of states bordering Bangladesh at Nabanna on Thursday.

While the West Bengal chief minister was on the same page as Singh over stricter border vigilance to plug infiltration from the other side, the home minister spoke to Banerjee on Darjeeling for 15 minutes.

Sources in the state secretariat hinted that the CM had been able to put across how important it was to have central forces in Darjeeling, which shares borders with three countries — Bhutan, Nepal and China. Singh, given his rapport with the CM, is likely to look into the matter. The Modi government also wants to use Singh to keep channels open with Banerjee, who had been with NDA some years ago.

Banerjee has been very vocal on the Centre's decision to withdraw central forces from Darjeeling during serious unrest following the demand of Gorkhaland by Bimal Gurung and his associates. The Centre also didn't take the risk of going soft on the Gorkhaland demand, even as some BJP leaders had endorsed the call for smaller states during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

Singh on Thursday skirted questions about the possibility of a tripartite meeting on Gorkhaland, giving primacy to the state government's view.

Earlier, in a meeting with the chief ministers of Indo-Bangla border states, Singh made it very clear that the government would not compromise on border issues. In order to plug cross-border terrorism, migration and cattle smuggling, he insisted on a technology-based surveillance system.

"The total length of India-Bangladesh border is 4,096km of which 3,006 km has been fenced. But remaining 1,090 km of border is not fenced yet. Out of this, 684km will be fenced but the remaining 406km of border area would come under non-physical barriers. In these areas, technological solutions of a networked combination of electronic gadgets like radar, day-night cameras and various types of censors will be integrated in a unified command and control architecture," Singh said. "We have already started working on it at Dhubri in Assam on a testing basis and this will be further implemented all along this non-fenced border," he added.

He said the India-Bangladesh border would be brought under a 'Border Protection Grid' for foolproof security. "The grid will comprise various elements, including physical and non-physical barriers, surveillance systems, intelligence agencies, state police, BSF and other state and central agencies. There will be a high-level committee under the chief secretary of the state to monitor the system," he added.

Singh also urged states sharing a border with Bangladesh to be vigilant against the influx of Rohingyas and illegal migrants. "We have talked about Rohingya issue. I have appealed to all the states to be vigilant on this issue. We have friendly relations with Bangladesh but there are some insurgent groups functioning along the border. All the states have assured cooperation," he said. 

Times of India

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