‘Rampant Infiltration of Drones from Pakistan a Constant Concern', Indian Punjab Minister Says
07:29 GMT 13.10.2021 (Updated: 19:37 GMT 19.10.2022)
A politician from India's main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, Vijay Inder Singla currently holds the portfolio of Administrative Reforms and Public Works Department in the Charanjit Singh Channi-led Punjab government. He was Punjab’s Minister for Education in the past and was a Member of Parliament from 2009-2014.
Vijay Inder Singla is the only cabinet minister retained in Punjab's new Congress party government who was sworn-in in India's Punjab last month after Captain Amarinder Singh stepped down as state chief due to an internal party fiasco.
The prominent politician from India’s main opposition party Congress is presently serving as a cabinet minister in the Punjab government.
Sputnik talked to Vijay Inder Singla, who is also the party’s national spokesperson and was adjudged as one of the best parliamentarians during the Congress-led federal government.
He addressed issues including cross-border terrorism and the success of his government in uncovering narcotics supply chains, ahead of Punjab legislative polls that are just months away.
Sputnik: What national security concerns have been raised by some politicians recently in Punjab state, which shares a border with the country’s arch-rival Pakistan?
Vijay Inder Singla: Punjab is a sensitive state. It has already witnessed a lot of terrorism in the past. In the recent past, we have seen a series of continuous proxy attacks on the border. There is heightened penetration through drones that have been used to drop different kinds of gadgets that are used for terrorist activities. There is always a fear in the state of a revival of terrorism and constant concerns about the rampant infiltration of drones from Pakistan.
Punjab cannot be compared with any other state in the country for its sheer history of having faced extreme terrorism, its geographic location and zeal among the people to contribute to the country's growth. It is a state known for its great freedom fighters, who made a huge impact on our freedom struggle.
We have already seen the troubles that Pakistan-sponsored terrorism has brought to this state. The current sensitivity in the state is not really related to elections.
Whenever elections are held, the issue of national security is strongly raised by political parties and leaders.
To handle the state (of Punjab), you need to have a very strong government or people who can take good decisions, who know about the sensitivity of sharing a border with Pakistan.
Sputnik: Since there have always been security concerns in Punjab due to its proximity with Pakistan, do you think this time such concerns are more serious in nature in comparison to the past?
Vijay Inder Singla: There is a new worrying trend of cross-border terrorism, with patterns fast emerging in which terror groups are using advanced gadgets and drones to make a strike or gather intelligence about our installations and equipment. Drones are also being used from across the border to push weapons and drugs into the state.
Recently, four people were arrested after a terror attack, when “tiffin bombs” were used to blow up an oil tanker in the border area. Links to Pakistan were traced in that terror attack as well.
Sputnik: Punjab is also considered to be the entry point into India for the drugs smuggled from Afghanistan via Pakistan. How is your government fighting the war against the drug mafia?
Vijay Inder Singla: This has been a very serious issue for our government. The Narcotics Control Bureau has also tried to play its role in checking infiltration at the border, with drugs being pushed from Pakistan on the other side.
The federal government and paramilitary forces are entrusted with the task of checking drugs smuggling along the 5,400 km-long border.
We have managed to break supply chains at the grassroots-level. Earlier, the penetration of the drug mafia was so deep that every household was supplying drugs. But we have worked to end that.
Sputnik: Some of the top politicians in Punjab have been blamed for working hand in glove with drug smugglers. Do you view it as a major part of the drug problem gripping the state?
Vijay Inder Singla: If you have influential people involved in the drug racket then it's very easy for the infiltration to penetrate to the villages and streets of every small town in the state.
If you don’t have powerful people protecting this business, obviously it is easier to eliminate.
At a time when the (opposition) Shiromani Akali Dal party was in power, all the powerful people were behind the drug mafia. These powerful people had enormous clout and the drug mafia received their support.
The Congress government has been able to break the supply chains in the villages only because powerful people are not supporting the drug mafia anymore and they are not able to penetrate.