Time for CAPFs to be engaged in internal security and be treated at par with other forces
Are personnel of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) mere cannon fodder at the altar of decision-making? They are the ones who have increasingly been taking the bullet for the errors in decisions at political, strategic, tactical or execution level.
The killing of 17 Territorial Army soldiers in Tripura in December 2004 by militants; butchering of 76 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers at Chintalnar in Chhattisgarh; killing of 26 CRPF jawans again in Chhattisgarh in June 2010; killing of large numbers of Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers in the first phase of militancy/ insurgency in Kashmir and the everyday killing of army personnel in Kashmir are all the result of errors committed by all in hierarchy i.e., political executive, permanent executive, military /CAPF /police leadership at strategic, tactical and execution level.
The killing of 40 CRPF soldiers by local militant Adil Dar of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), who rammed his explosive laden car into a CRPF convoy vehicle, has led to a wave of widespread condemnation and condolences. The tragic incident united all political parties – a welcome change indeed – who demanded strict action against the perpetrators of the terror act. At the same time a feeling of revenge filled the hearts of many Indians who wanted to teach Pakistan a lesson. Many turned their anger against Kashmiris too – Dar was a local Kashmiri trained by JeM. Many Kashmiri youth in different parts of the country were attacked. This type of revenge rhetoric against cross-border terror is justified and welcome. But bringing in Kashmiri youth in this rhetoric is not a good idea – it will only lead to a feeling of discrimination among the Kashmiri youth. And give cross-border handlers an opportunity to exploit this discontent, leading to more recruitment of local youth.
Amidst the revenge rhetoric all have forgotten the plight of CRPF and CAPF troops, and lack of permanent measures to alleviate their sufferings. During one TV programme, on Pulwama attack, Commander C. Uday Bhaskar said that CRPF soldiers have a feeling of ‘No Mai-Baap’ when compared with the Indian Army. The CRPF is also called as ‘Chalte Raho Pyare Force’. Despite the noise made by director generals of various CAPFs that a lot is done for the welfare of the personnel, the situation on the ground is quite different.
Let’s analyse the situation. Since 1 January 2004, there has been no difference between a central government servant in either Delhi, Kolkata or Bengaluru and a CAPF soldier operating in either Kashmir, Naxal-affected areas or at high-altitudes. His pension has been brought under the New Pension scheme, which needs reconsideration by the government. Which means that he doesn’t get any pension if he retires now.
For troops as well as officers, pre and post-retirement medical facilities are almost non-existent. The medical set-up can be called as referral set up. The data, if collected, will reveal that a majority of patients are referred by CAPF doctors to civil hospitals. After retirement, the situation is pathetic for troops from rural background. Something on the lines of ECHS is needed to be introduced for CAPF personnel for their wellbeing.
After the Seventh Pay Commission, all CAPF personnel has been categorised as civilians. A central government employee working fixed hours in Delhi or Chandigarh and a CAPF employee working 16-20 hours in danger zone with irregular sleep cycle has been treated at par. These recommendations have been accepted by the government with concurrence of director generals CAPF. This needs reconsideration by the government of the day.
The promotional avenues for CAPF troops, too, are poor. In the Border Security Force (BSF), a constable picks up the rank of a head constable after putting in 19 to 20 years of service that must be the worst amongst all CAPFs and armed forces. The housing satisfaction for CAPF personnel is very low with the availability of accommodation for married people at 14 per cent.
The biggest boost for morale and motivation of personnel is better pay and allowances, timely promotions, stable life, good education for children, and medical facilities. Unfortunately, CAPF officers/ leadership are fighting through courts for their rightful dues, and court judgements are continuously being ignored by the governments. Even director generals CAPF have taken no steps to undo these wrongs.
The government of the day has to be sensitive to the welfare needs of CAPF personnel who form the first line of defence against external aggression as well as internal disturbances. The welfare measures have to be permanent and not cosmetic. It is a fact that CAPF personnel are called and deployed for every sundry law and order duty which the top-heavy police force fails to fulfil. Move for deployment of CRPF personnel in Punjab jails is an example of that.
Now, it has to be seen whether the rhetoric for revenge, which calls for any action including cross border strikes, is practical considering our operational capability and assets.
During surgical strikes in 2016, the army struck at terrorist camps/ launch pads and not at Pakistan Army positions. After strikes, the Indian DGMO informed his counterpart that India would not get involved in escalation. Strikes were not on the army posts because the leadership believed that escalation may go beyond their capability and cause more damage than anticipated political and military advantage.
The operational capabilities and the edge of our military have been compromised due to their continuous involvement in internal security duties. The military leadership has compromised the edge by not insisting that the army be withdrawn to barracks to train for their basic duty to fight conventional/ unconventional external aggression. They must insist that all internal security duties be handed over to CAPFs and the police. Once made responsible, the CAPF leadership will certainly tackle the situation.
The moot question, however, is that whether our generals who have got accustomed to media attention by their continuous involvement in internal security duties are ready to do that. The answer seems to be no as stated by editor FORCE Pravin Sawhney in his article in The Tribune (16 February 2019). He writes, “Army leadership misled political leadership into believing that fencing on the border is good enough protection against determined adversary.” The fact that the military leadership has aligned military objectives with political ones is clear in reply to a question asked by Pravin Sawhney to the then Army chief Gen. Dalbir Singh. When asked, how long will the army continue with internal stability operations. Gen. Dalbir Singh replied, “You should ask the home ministry.”
The best solution is to think beyond rhetoric and revenge. Take steps that such incidents are not repeated and innocent lives of security force personnel are not lost. I suggest the following:
- All counter-insurgency and security operations be handed over to CAPF and they be strengthened. A timeline be fixed for such role reversal. All CAPFs be involved by creating a security grid for each force. Detailed modalities be worked out.
- Large number of army troops and officers are deployed in anti-militancy/anti-insurgency operations as part of Rashtriya Rifles. They should all go back to barracks to train for their primary duties and also to fill the gaps in deployment on LC to stop cross LC infiltration. In case such infiltration is contained, militancy will be automatically contained.
- Strong CAPF leadership be built out of CAPF cadre who are experienced in anti-militancy and anti-insurgency operations. Inexperienced police leadership working as managers be dispensed with.
If measures, which are national interest centric and not domain centric, are taken by government and enforced, militancy in Kashmir can be contained in a laid down time-frame.