Post Pulwama, focus should be hitherto neglected CPMFs and internal security
It is for the first time that the sacrifice of 42 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel at Pulwama in the deadliest terror attack has drawn the attention and united the entire nation. It is also for the first time that major countries across the world have listed their solidarity with India against terror. The incident has the potential of being a game changer in the international arena to polarise countries for and against terror, with economic and militario-diplomatic follow-up. Among other aspects of the issues involved, it provides a small window in time to have a cursory look on the physique of our apparatus — the Central Para-Military Force (CPMFs) — taking a huge call on the internal security of the nation.
While there is public knowledge about defence and state police, CPMFs are lesser understood outfits. The scope for a middle ground between the defence and the traditional policing existed right since pre-Independence days, but the area has rapidly expanded after Independence, especially after the onset of insurgency in northeast states, hotting up of western and northeastern borders of early Sixties, Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) of late Sixties, all India railway strike of 1974, Punjab militancy of early Eighties, resurgence of LWE of central India with improved indoctrination, weaponry and tactics and cross border militancy of Jammu and Kashmir of early to mid-Nineties. These are the years in the history of internal security of the nation when traditional police would have fallen awfully short of strength, training and endurance of the job requirement, and the army of spare numbers and of time required. At such a time, the CPMFs came on the scene and went on multiplying by leaps and bounds in strength and scope of deployment in an effort to measure up to the ever-expanding job requirement.
CAPFs or CPMFs
The CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and Assam Rifles etc. are Armed Forces of the Union under the purview of Article 246, (vii) schedule, list 1 (Union list), entry no. 2, mentioned as ‘Naval, Military and Air Forces; and any other Armed Force of the Union’, and these Forces are also defined as ‘Armed Forces of the Union’ in their Acts passed by the Parliament. This has been upheld by various court judgments including that of Honourable Supreme Court – during 1973, based on the fact that ‘Police and Public Order’ being state subjects. Ministry of Human Resources (MHA) vide their OM dated 6 August 2004, have clarified that all these Forces are Armed Forces of the Union, unlike the ‘police’ which falls under list-2 (state list) at entry no. 2 of seventh schedule of the Article 246 of the Constitution with scope limited to maintain general law and order within a state and its peculiar set of law and order issues.
Therefore, deployed across a number of states on the borders and within (CRPF in almost all the states), and their working conditions tough next to Infantry, these Central Armed Forces of the Union are more of paramilitary nature, than police or armed police (as given out by MHA in response to an article in The Tribune a few years ago, questioning the use of word ‘paramilitary’ for these Central Armed Forces – despite the army itself listing all these Forces as paramilitary in their Ex-Servicemen Re-employment in Civil Services & Posts Rules 1979 – probably more to distinguish them from defence forces than to really bring them within the definition of ‘police’ under the purview of schedule vii of Article 246), irrespective of their nomenclature, which must be corrected, as soon as possible, to set such misleading doubts to rest.
Ethos & Leadership
The entries into these Forces are at the levels of jawans, subordinate officers though combined staff selection boards and officers (group ‘A’) are chosen through UPSC, followed by rigorous paramilitary training as foundation and role specific training as additional. All jawans are charted to reach the rank of inspector and subordinate officers up to officers rank through selection. For officers beyond the level of Commandant the organisational structure is tapered 1:3.5 (approx), and the vacancies shared by the officers on deputation to the extent of percentage fixed, and top slots traditionally occupied by the latter. The combined cadre strength of the CPMFs officers is about 10,000 (all Forces have direct recruitment of officers, 50 per cent by local promotion & HAG in cadre – meeting all notional attributes of organised group ‘A’ service), and, thanks to suffocating stagnation at lower levels, NFFU recommended by Sixth Central Pay Commission with accompanying benefits of organised service, (notified by DPG&P during 2009, admissibility endorsed by Honourable Delhi high court judgment dated 3 September 2015), have finally been confirmed by Honourable Supreme Court after in their judgement dated 5 February 2019.
Each one of these Forces possess a homogenous internal climate of the rigorous training, tough service conditions, strict discipline and fitness standards, on the one hand, while on the other, strong service ethics (an uncompromisable pattern of official behaviour – a necessity to run the Forces with fair hand) based on Force traditions and professional camaraderie. Sustained observance of service ethos in the internal climate morphs into Force-culture, upheld throughout the service life and beyond. These hard-built service ethos and culture are ruffled by mid-career entries into these Forces, with scanty exposure in the relevant field of roles, affecting the internal synergy of these Forces. In view of specialised charter of duties, (hence the training & working conditions), the deputations to CPMFs from other outfits, are increasingly losing relevance. Though the Indian Police Service has provided some of the finest officers to CPMFs, still part of legend and held in reverence in these Forces.
However, having rapidly evolved a long way in their own fields of operation, over last half a century of existence (CRPF in its 80th year) the internal leadership of the CPMFs, with better knowledge of the grammar of these Forces, still remains under-utilised owing to unceasing deputations (now recommended to be scaled down to half by the parliamentary standing committee owing to vacancies to that extent). But in changed scenario, when most of the central government departments recruit their officers through UPSC and a sizeable cadre strength with adequate seniority and experience has built-up, the provision of such over-dragging deputation should be up for a re-visit with open mind, invoking the spirit of equality of opportunity in the matters of appointment to any office under the state, in the best interest of growingly specialised high risk call of internal security. It’s time that like defence, paramilitary forces (organised services as per Honourable SC judgment dated 5 February 2019) and police, different verticals giants with distinct training, charter of duties and working conditions, are recognised as such and allowed to grow independent of each other.
Besides the A-category physical fitness and training (which includes periodic tactical re-training for troops & unit level officers and strategic upgradation training for higher command), there is only one way to maintain the Forces efficiency – provision of latest equipment and accoutrement, efficient and sufficient transport system, viable medical cover, messing, leave and post retrial care (of rehabilitation, health, pension and grievance redressal). This support being of first-class quality and sufficient quantity would save time and efforts in repetitive maintenance, improvisation and upgradation and create the first-class synergy expected from the Forces. This is where the general outlook needs upgradation, while drawing a fine balance between safety and economy dealing with national security and bulk of troops (each one with a family behind), it would be wiser to be marginally generous just in case, not to end up yielding tactical reverses, loss of lives and state property. It should serve as a cue that challenges being next to defence, minus the artillery, the CPMFs need and deserve what light infantry needed and received at the troop levels of 10,00,000 (approx).
Risks & Compensations
The training, equipment and accoutrement of these Central Armed Forces personnel, are closer to those of defence Forces (most of their Recruit Training Centres and officers’ academies follow drill, weapons, fieldcraft and tactics manuals closely replicating those of light infantry, as foundation for internal security specific training). Their personnel work 24×7, away from their families and out in difficult and harsh terrains. After Kargil operation a group of ministers in their study clearly re-defined the individual roles of these Forces, which have later been broadly grouped as border guarding Forces (BSF, ITBP, SSB & Assam Riffles), and, Internal Security Forces (CRPF, CISF, NSG). The level of performance of these Forces remains constantly high, with rich tally of gallantry and service medals (total no. of gallantry medal 3220) and exposed to militancy / insurgency / Left Wing Extremism and inhospitable climate of Jammu and Kashmir, Northeast, South-Eastern & South-Central India, their annual fatalities are highest among all uniformed forces.
As defence forces are trained for the defence of the country from external aggression, the Central Paramilitary Forces are trained for maintenance of internal security. In view of the constitutional position, training and working conditions of these Forces, not only these Forces may be re-notified as Paramilitary Forces of the Union, but also their pay and perks, governing & pension (discontinued during pan India austerity measure of 2004 which should be restored) rules, should be separate from the Central Civil Services Rules with nine-to-five job, un-arduous working conditions and liberal leave rules. Right now these Forces, unduly clubbed as Central Police Forces or Central Armed Police Forces, are rendering the service one notch below defence forces, taking all challenges of internal security, including day-to-day border guarding, with compensations below central (organised) services. Renaming them Central Para Military Forces with separate set of Service Rules other than Civil Service Rules, would entitle 10,00,000 personnel (approx) of these seven CPMFs for all accompanying service benefits and risk coverage, including pension, rehabilitation, welfare boards down to district level and canteen.
(The writer is a retired inspector general of police)