Fighting the biggest cross-border drone intrusion from Pakistan till now, the Punjab government has decided to rope in local villagers to help combat the narco-terrorism menace. In a recent decision, the Punjab government has urged residents to keep a close watch and announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for any information on the cross-border movement of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) leading to recovery of weapons and narcotics.
Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann highlighting the gravity of the issue has sanctioned Rs 20 crore for installation of CCTV cameras at strategic locations in the border villages of Punjab to keep a tab on drones and check activities of drug smugglers.
Speaking to Indianarrative.com, Special Director General of Police (DGP) Arpit Shukla said that Village Defence Committees (VDCs) will also be set up in border villages to keep an eye on activities of drug smugglers.
The Punjab police and BSF have joined hands for better coordinated efforts and senior officials of the two forces held a joint coordination cum review meeting in Amritsar to take stock of the situation.
DIG (Border Range) Narinder Bhargav and DIG (Ferozepur Range) Ranjit Singh Dhillon along with four DIGs and four Commandants of BSF were part of the meeting.
“Both the forces are working together to counter the drone operations at Punjab borders, which have emerged as the new threat. We need to carry out evidence-based and proactive policing to prevent the smuggling of narcotics and weapons into Punjab from across the border,” said Shukla.
The BSF had shot down four Pakistani drones along the International border in Punjab over the week-end as there was a sudden surge in UAV activity. Earlier 11 Pakistani drones had been drones destroyed till April 30 this year to 11. Around 100 incidents of drone intrusions into Indian territory have been reported between Jan- May 22 this year.
In December 2022 there were 254 drone activities in Punjab as compared to 67 in 2021. This includes 221 activities detected inside Indian Territory and 22 inside Pakistan.
The activity in Punjab accounts for about 84 per cent of the total drone activities reported along the entire western border this year. A total of 224 spotted drones were fired upon by BSF personnel in 2022 while the number stood at 43 in 2021.
The central investigating agencies are probing the link between the four-fold increase in drone activity in 2022 to Khalistani Separatist Amritpal Singh who also arrived in the state the same year.
Highly placed sources reveal that Singh’s links have been traced to cross-border drug dealers based in Pakistan like Billa, Bilal, and Rana. These dealers are pumping drugs into India with the help of local criminals and villagers located closer to the border.
The investigations against Amritpal and his aides so far highlights an active role in cross-border smuggling of arms, ammunition, and drugs in close coordination with ISI to destabilise law and order in Punjab. The BSF data highlights that Amritsar, Gurdaspur, and Ferozepur recorded the highest number of drone movements.
The area is near Singh’s native village and there are allegations of him brainwashing the local youth into actively participating in the same.
According to the BSF records, the Punjab border remained the most active sector for Pakistan’s nefarious activities in 2022 amongst the four states that share the International Border with the hostile neighbour.