The Punjab Police has rolled out a drone emergency response system in the border district of Pathankot to foil attempts to smuggle drugs and weapons from across the border using unmanned aerial vehicles, officials said.
Under the drone emergency response system, police will coordinate with village-level defence committees in areas along the India-Pakistan border for a faster response to instances of smuggling of narcotics and arms and ammunition from the neighbouring country.
According to the officials, frequent drone movements for the smuggling of drugs and weapons from across the border pose a challenge for security agencies in Punjab.
They said that hardly a day passes when drone movement is not spotted in border districts of Punjab even though the Border Security Force has gunned down many unmanned aerial vehicles and seized packets of heroin in the recent past.
In the past few weeks, the border guarding force shot down several drones in Punjab, which shares a 553 km border with Pakistan.
Last week, Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit targeted Pakistan for pushing drugs into India and said that surgical strikes should be conducted against the neighbouring nation to teach it a lesson.
During his two-day visit to border districts, Purohit also commended the Punjab Police and district administrations for making a lot of efforts for drug seizure, border security and tackling the issue of drones.
Pathankot Senior Superintendent of Police Harkamal Preet Singh Khakh said the drone emergency response system (DERS) is being implemented on a pilot basis in Pathankot and it will be replicated in other border districts of the state.
DERS has been implemented in Pathankot’s 14 villages which are within two kilometres of the international border.
He said two village police officers have been deployed in each of the 14 villages. The village police officers (VPOs) are local residents and will work in tandem with village-level defence committees (VLDCs) to keep a check on any suspicious movement in their villages.
Whenever any drone movement is noticed in a village, the VPO will activate the VLDC and will also inform the police control room, he said.
Till the time a police team reaches the spot, the VPO along with the VLDC will cordon off the area where any contraband or weapon has been dropped off by a Pakistani drone to prevent its retrieval by any miscreant or smuggler, the police said.
The initial response will be triggered without any delay, followed by a secondary response within a span of five to 10 minutes, and a tertiary response within 15 to 20 minutes, resulting in the swift apprehension of individuals involved in unlawful activity, the police said.
VLDCs have been set up in border districts of Punjab to keep a check on suspicious movement.
Gurdaspur Deputy Commissioner Himanshu Aggawal said VLDCs comprising 11 members each have been set up in 265 villages which are located within 15 km of the international border.
VLDC members are mainly village heads, ex-servicemen or influential persons and if they see any suspicious activity, they inform the authority concerned, Aggarwal said.
WhatsApp groups of VLDCs have been formed to share information and a joint command and control centre has been set up in the deputy commissioner’s office.
“We are motivating them (VLDC members) to be the defenders of their villages,” Aggarwal said.
The Gurdaspur district administration was praised by the Punjab governor for setting up VLDCs in villages up to 15 km from the international border.
“Ninety-four cameras have been installed across the district, especially in the border areas, and the live feed of these cameras is jointly monitored by police and civil officials,” the deputy commissioner said.
He said 30 panchayats in Gurdaspur have already passed resolutions that they will not allow any drug activity in their villages and will make their villages completely drug-free in the next six months.
Last month, the Punjab Police declared a reward of Rs 1 lakh for information of drone movement leading to the recovery of weapons and narcotics.
The state government has sanctioned Rs 20 crore for the installation of CCTV cameras at strategic locations in the border villages to keep a strict vigil on the movement of drones and cross-border smugglers.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)