A group of Birgunj businessmen have urged Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to redeploy Industrial Security Force personnel to the Birgunj Pathlaiya Industrial Corridor, citing industrial security challenges caused by emerging threats.
At a Friday press conference in Kathmandu, businessmen representing the wider business community in Birgunj went public with their demands notifying the Prime Minister, Interior Minister, Finance Minister, government secretaries and other senior officials.
By early 2020, the government had removed the permanent presence of Armed Police Force (APF) personnel deployed as part of the Industry and Revenue Security Force from several industrial zones. Staff have been redirected to border areas for security reasons following concerns of the spread of the coronavirus in border areas and across the country.
During the closings that followed the first wave of the pandemic, a majority of industrial companies had lowered their shutters. The non-functioning of these enterprises led to the withdrawal of APF personnel from the industrial corridor.
From March 2020, the government imposed a nearly four-month lockdown to prevent the coronavirus from spreading further.
Subodh Kumar Gupta, President of the Birgunj Chamber of Commerce and Industry, reiterated his call for security in the industrial corridor in light of the apparent threats to factories and industrialists from various groups and residents.
“It only takes a few workers to disrupt industrial operations,” Gupta said. “Additionally, several factories have faced disruptions from residents for environmental reasons.”
In March last year, a group of residents of Simara in Bara padlocked the warehouse of Jagdamba Steels, accusing the factory of causing noise pollution.
There are other industrial enterprises along the Parsa-Bara Industrial Corridor which have at times faced obstruction from the locals.
About six years ago, the people of Parwanipur staged a protest against Narayani Oil and Trishakti Cement Industry for polluting the environment. Meanwhile, industrialists say environmental concerns have arisen as a result of the proliferation of settlements around the Industrial Corridor and that the area was not meant to host human settlements when the Industrial Corridor was put in place there. four decades old.
In addition to threats of obstruction by residents and sometimes by workers, industrialists also feel a threat from political parties for donations before the next election.
The government has announced local elections for May 13 but has yet to announce provincial and federal elections which are also expected to be held in 2022 as per the constitution.
“The presence of the Industrial Security Force is important to ensure an overall peaceful environment for the operation of factories,” Gupta said. “APF personnel deployed from the Industrial Security Force unit were helping us to receive raw materials from the Birgunj dry port in a timely manner, avoiding any unwanted disruptions along the way.”
In September 2012, the government had decided set up the Industry and Revenue Security Force (IRSF) to ensure the security of industrial enterprises and to combat tax evasion at border points. It was designed to ensure safety, particularly for companies in industrial areas.
the decision has been made after an increase in kidnappings, murders, threats and extortion of industrialists and businessmen by armed gangs in the post-conflict period.
At the time, militant labor organizations also posed a threat to the smooth running of factories and industrial enterprises.
In addition to providing security for industrial enterprises, units of the Industrial Security Force also assisted the Department of Tax Investigations in controlling cross-border smuggling and revenue leakage.
“There are now only temporary APF security units and they are deployed for industrial security when needed,” said Acting Chief Superintendent Kamal Prasad Tiusina of the APF, who is also the spokesman for the paramilitary police force.
“Previously, there were permanent units with more security personnel in a dozen industrial areas including Itahari, Parsa, Rupandehi, Nepalgunj, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, Pokhara, among others,” he said. -he declares.
Tiusina said permanent units of the Industrial Security Force had been withdrawn from industrial zones as the government prioritized border security in a relatively peaceful environment in industrial zones.
According to Tiusina, APF and Interior Ministry officials are aware of the demand from the business community for the restoration of permanent units in industrial zones.
But the government is facing a human resource crisis to deploy APF personnel to industrial zones due to the growing number of border outposts, officials said.
Over the past three years, the government has increased the number of border outposts.
According to Tiusina, there are currently 227 border outposts, including 220 in border areas with India and seven in border areas with China. “We planned to to augment the number of border outposts to 500,” he said.
Until 2017, there were only 87 border outposts, according to the APF.
“We recognize the need to restore the permanent security units of the Industrial Security Force in industrial areas,” said Phanindramani Pokharel, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “But it’s difficult to do that in the immediate term because we need to deploy more AFP staff for election security in the upcoming elections.”
He said that currently industrial enterprises do not face major threats from outside elements such as armed groups. “There may be internal conflicts leading to the closure of certain factories. We will be able to handle such disputes under the existing arrangement,” Pokharel said.