Even though China has been increasingly making incursions across the India-China border and consistently improving its infrastructure, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has not been able to make a single procurement of necessary equipment in the past three years. Beset by austerity measures of the previous government, the elite force guarding India-China border is short by 500 vehicles and has been meeting its requirements by rigging old ones.

This problem, along with the issue of massive disparity in road and telecommunication infrastructure vis a vis China, need for dedicated air support, no martyr status for force personnel and deployment related issues, were brought to the attention of Home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday when he made his first visit to the headquarters of the force.

The visit assumes significance in the light of government’s visible focus on strengthening Sino-Indian border security. There have already been close to 400 incursions by Chinese troops this year. Only 10 days ago, MoS Home Kiren Rijiju visited Ladakh to assess the border situation and was given a detailed presentation by ITBP on the functioning of the force and its requirements.

Home Ministry sources said the minister looked at the issues “sympathetically” and assured all help. “When you are deployed ahead of the army on the border, you should get better facilities,” Singh is learnt to have said when infrastructure and equipment deficiencies were pointed out.

Singh, sources said, also assured the force that he would look into the issue of “martyr status” to ITBP jawans who die in the line of duty. While Army personnel are called martyrs and given consequent rewards when they die on duty, no such provision exists for paramilitary forces. When five IAF personnel along with 15 ITBP men died in a chopper crash in the 2013 Uttarakhand deluge, the IAF men were given the status of martyrs and awarded gallantry medals. ITBP men were given no such recognition.

Sources said not only has the force not been provided all-terrain vehicles, but even the incompatible plains vehicles provided to them are short in number. As many as 13 battalions were raised in the four years but no new vehicles were procured as the UPA was following an austerity routine.

ITBP also raised the issue of the force being increasingly given law and order anti-naxal duties, something that was not its mandate. Operationalisation of 54 new border outposts and better accommodation for jawans were also among the issues discussed.

SOURCE: TNN

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