Training Not Enough

There is need to impart professional education to CPMF personnel

Sanjiv Krishan SoodS.K. Sood

The central armed forces of India, namely Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashashtra Seema Bal (SSB) and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) play a vital role in the security matrix of India. These armed forces have created a large and modern infrastructure to train their personnel to ensure that they are able to properly execute the specific tasks expected of them.

While the border guarding forces train to prevent trans-border crimes, they are taught the drills for ambushes, patrols, etc. On the other hand, the forces responsible for internal security train to ensure the security of the public and installations. Thus, they are trained in carrying out patrols in buildup areas, cordon and search operations, etc. The personnel responsible for industrial security are trained to control access, carry out frisking, etc. at the industrial unit they are deployed at. Training is thus focused and restricted to teaching drills to tackle specific situations.

Therefore, the training in these forces aims to equip the personnel with skills to carry out tasks allotted to them at the tactical level. Emphasis on imparting knowledge about the circumstances under which these tactical operations will have to be undertaken is very limited. The training in these forces focuses on moulding the attitude of a raw civilian into a disciplined soldier who will unquestioningly obey the orders of superiors. This type of training results in curbing the initiative of individuals and trains them to respond mechanically to an emerging situation or threat.

The contents of training include only limited inputs in the form of knowledge about the larger strategic aspects beyond the immediate area of operation. While this to an extent is understandable for lower functionaries, the higher supervisory and policy level leadership must acquire knowledge not only about the area where they are operating—area of influence, but also about their area of interest—the aspects which may influence their area of operation and hence affect their operational philosophy.

The only education that was imparted in these forces was for the constabulary initially inducted in these forces as most of them were uneducated, hence they were required to acquire a minimum standard of education to rise up in their careers. These personnel underwent formal classes to achieve what were called Education Standard I, II and III which were mandatory for promotion. However, this education was restricted only to academics and included no inputs about professional education.

The service training programmes introduced of late in these forces also fail to address this deficiency as they merely aim at enabling the officials to perform duties of the next level. There is very little strategic, thought-provoking content even in these upgradation programmes.

In fact, there is very little clarity on the difference between training and education in the armed forces and these terms are more often than not used interchangeably. An ancient truism says that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, and if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life. Educating him about the art and science of fishing enables him to fine-tune to the changing ground situation.

BSF Centre for Officer Training
BSF Centre for Officer Training

The planners don’t realise that education is a process of acquiring knowledge about facts and principles of a topic in order to enable the development of a sense of reasoning and intellect in an individual and equip him with problem-solving abilities. Training on the other hand aims to develop skills to improve performance. Thus, training is specific and focused while education is broader and covers a wider range of topics. Training is imparted during the induction of a person and subsequently when the job profile changes, whereas education is a continuous process as one needs to remain updated and adapt to the changing strategic realities. In other words, education provides theoretical knowledge whereas training aims to equip a person with practical skills. Also, training can be acquired in many different settings after theoretical knowledge has been acquired in formal settings. For example, after acquiring theoretical knowledge about ambush in formal classroom settings, its practical application can be taught by way of (a) practical demonstration, (b) conducting tactical exercises on the ground or on a sand model. One may conclude that training focuses on specific short-term tasks while education aims to prepare a person for a career.

The difference in education and training can best be highlighted by the example of ‘ek goli ek dushman’ drilled into force personnel during training. This skill when employed in actual operational conditions like the one prevailing along the India–Bangladesh border or in internal security situations in populated areas generally results in collateral damage and is hence termed excessive. Such collateral damage invites allegations of Human Rights violations. However, if the personnel are educated to study and differentiate between operational circumstances prevailing in different areas, they will be able to exercise their initiative and use proportionate force to tackle a situation. Educating them about the theoretical and practical aspects of provisions of law pertaining to the ‘Use of minimum force’, and ‘Right to Private Defence’ will also empower them to analyse and react proportionately to a developing situation in real-time. Therefore, the importance of education for junior level leadership cannot be ignored. Further analysis of incidents of firing and causalities caused in operational areas led to the introduction of a less lethal strategy along the borders with Bangladesh and also in controlling stone pelters in Kashmir.

The senior leaders also need education about geopolitics and the manner in which it influences the environment in their domain. For example, the construction of a fence along the borders of India with Pakistan and Bangladesh was the result of a study of the effectiveness of the fence on the Algeria-Morocco border and border guarding systems adopted in other countries facing similar problems. But for this knowledge and its application, the infiltration of militants and logistic support to them would have been very difficult to control. The success of the fence in Punjab led to the subsequent fencing of the entire India–Pakistan and India–Bangladesh borders which has substantially contributed to controlling trans-border crimes. However, the leaders must proactively study and analyse the effect of fencing on the environment along the border: how has it affected the crime pattern and lifestyle of the border population. The education therefore need not necessarily be in a classroom environment. The field visits and analysis of data collected provide a lot of education and knowledge which will help improve efficiency and the working environment.

Happenings in neighbouring countries affect the crime pattern along borders and therefore being abreast with them is important as these will affect the nature of border crime and thus guarding operations. For example, Bangladesh deciding to rear cattle within the country alongside the concerted efforts by authorities in India to protect cattle by creating shelters for them and imposing restrictions on their movement has drastically reduced the illegal cattle smuggling along the border with Bangladesh. Analysis of these trends will help leaders modify domination patterns on the border. Similarly, the Taliban coming to power in Afghanistan and the freezing of the Afghan government’s accounts by most of the world powers has created a resource crunch for them. Leaders who studied the phenomenon would have realised that drug smuggling on the borders will increase. Being aware of the implications, more efforts would have logically gone into the collection and dissemination of information about the likely routes of drug smuggling, its couriers, destination and financing.

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