Specialised BSF Bn deployed in Guwahati

R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, Feb 14 – With Assam and other parts of the North East falling under zone V of the seismic map of India and floods becoming a regular phenomenon, a specialised battalion of the Border Security Force (BSF) called the National Disaster Response Force, has been posted in Guwahati to deal with any natural or man-made disaster and since its inception, the personnel of the battalion have acted swiftly after several major disasters including floods, landslides and even bus accidents. The personnel of the battalion have been given specialized training to deal with such disasters and though at this moment it is based in Guwahati, two regional centres are planned in Bongaigaon and Dibrugarh in the days to come.

Talking to The Assam Tribune, the second in command of the battalion, Anil Verma said that the disaster management battalions of the BSF were formed in January, 2006 under the provisions of the National Disaster Management Authority Act. One battalion is stationed in the city and the other in Kolkata and the main reason for stationing one battalion in Assam is that this area is considered as a high risk seismic zone. He said that the basic aims of the battalion include acting as first medical response teams in case of any disaster, rescuing of the victims from the debris in case of building collapse and also during the floods and assisting the civil authorities to provide relief to the affected people. The battalion is also maintaining liaison with other government departments and agencies dealing with these matters.

Verma said that the first trainings to the personnel of the battalion were provided by experts from the Asian Development Project Commission and Nepal Society for Earthquake Technology and the training included search and rescue in case of building collapse and medical response. Now the BSF has its own Institute of Disaster Response at Gwalior. The personnel of the battalion are also given training on fire fighting and rope rescue courses in the National Civil Defence College, Nagpur, while, training on flood rescue and deep diving are done in the Sea Explorers Institute and Rastriya Life Saving Society, Kolkata. Some of the personnel even received training in countries like China, Mongolia and USA.

The personnel of the battalion are handpicked for a period of five years depending on qualification and the tenure can be extended by another five years. Normally, each battalion of the BSF has only one doctor, but this special battalion has nine doctors, paramedical staff as well as structural engineers, electricians, plumbers etc. The battalion has a dog squad comprising 15 dogs. The dogs and their handlers are trained in the National Training Centre for Dogs and a veterinary doctor is also posted with the battalion. The battalion is also equipped with motor boats, fiber glass boats, floating pumps and other equipment required for rescuing people in case of disasters.

The adjutant of the battalion , Keshab Kumar said that the first major operation of the battalion in Assam was on July 19, 2007 when the personnel of the battalion were called in following a landslide in the city and seven bodies were recovered. In the same year, the battalion was pressed into service to rescue flood affected people in different parts of the State including Barpeta, Chaygaon area of Kamrup district, districts of Cachar and Hailakandi, etc. In 2008, the personnel of the battalion were pressed into service to rescue people following a bus accident in the Sonapur area, while, the battalion also actively participated in rescuing flood hit people in the districts of Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Rangiya area of Kamrup district etc. Teams of the battalion were also pressed into service in rescue operations in Bihar floods last year.

Indian High Commissioner about the findings of the probe and given him a copy of the report prepared by the Federal Investigation Agency.