Chandigarh: Hundreds of workers whose antecedents are not verified are working as labourers at illegal mining sites within 25 km of the India-Pakistan border in the three bordering districts of Punjab. This along with incessant excavation by the illegal miners near the border has become a cause of concern for the Border Security Force (BSF) which is manning the 3,323 km long border from Gujarat to Kashmir. Punjab alone shares 425 km-long borders with Pakistan.
At certain places in Pathankot, Fazilka and Ferozepur, the two sides of the road leading to the border have been dug up as deep as 20 feet which at certain places has resulted in a series of humped surfaces followed by trenches or ditches for kilometres together. Sources in the BSF said in case of any eventuality, such as a war, the tanks, Army trucks and heavy vehicles would not be able to move in tandem and even parallel, which is required in times of war, to the border.
In Pathankot alone, in the vicinity of Madhopur, about 25 km from the India-Pakistan border, there are close to 80 crushers. Also, at Ujj dariya near Bamiyal there are four stone crushers, about 8 km from the border.
Coupled with the above issues, in recent times, there have been several incidents of drones being flown from Pakistan and the possibility of their dropping contraband and arms and ammunition remains strong. The presence of the miners and a large number of workers/labourers whose background check hasn’t been carried out is a big security threat.
Recently, the BSF through a petition filed at the Punjab and Haryana High Court stated that illegal mining in the bordering areas can pose a huge threat to the country. The report was submitted by the BSF authorities and was placed before a Bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli in the last hearing. The case will come up for hearing on August 29.
BSF now has control over 50 km (as the crow flies) from the international border to keep tabs on drug peddling and arms smuggling.
The BSF has specifically apprised the high court that there is the presence of hundreds of workers, whose antecedents remain unverified, and working close to the international border can be a “big security hazard.”
Meanwhile, the state of Punjab has filed an affidavit on action taken against illegal mining, though it does not mention specific details about Pathankot, Gurdaspur, Fazilka and Ferozepur. The affidavit states that 603 FIRs have been registered against 958 individuals from January 1, 2022, to July 26 this year, and 690 persons have been arrested. Also, 777 vehicles belonging to the illegal mining mafia were impounded during this period.