“The day a soldier has to demand his dues is truly a sad day in history of a nation”
These words indeed serve a caveat to shoddy state of affairs plaguing the men of CAPFs in the country today.
Earlier this year, videos of BSF’s jawan Tej Bahadur about the poor quality of food became viral. Then came CRPF’s jawan video demanding equal status as Army. They caused quite a furore on social media. The videos were symptomatic in nature as the resentment runs deep in the ranks of forces.
Before dissecting the problems which have engulfed these forces, things need to be put in right perspective. BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB & CISF are CAPFs or Central Armed Police Force. CAPFs are under Union home ministry. CAPFs are often confused with Assam Rifles, Special Frontier Force, and Coast-guard which are paramilitary forces working under Ministry of defence. IPS members and not army commanders, like in case of paramilitary forces, head these organisations.
They work in most tough terrains, inhospitable environment and perform a number of complex and sophisticated duties. Their duties vary from riot control, elections, VVIP security to anti-terror and anti-insurgency ops, rescue and relief operations.
In certain conditions, they may function under command of Indian Army. CAPFs may not be the Armed forces of Union of India but they are as important as the Armed forces.
Plight of CAPF’s
Command Structure: Higher ranks are filled with officers from IPS cadre with little or no experience in internal security. They start heading a force which is neck-deep in checking infiltration or fighting Maoists just because there is a vacancy.
For example, DG of a BSF is an IPS officer from some state cadre, who before this posting perhaps has not even seen a border. This posting is a ‘rental accommodation’ for him and his loyalties lie to ‘home’ state cadre. Lower ranks are in despair with their seniors, who lack Esprit de corps that is so common amongst the men who have seen combat together.
Lack of Promotional Avenues: CAPF officers start their career as ‘Assistant Commandant’, a group A post. Leave aside Commandant, who is equivalent to a colonel of Indian Army, even the Inspector and Sub Inspector level officers are more educated and aspirational compared to what they used to be earlier.
They are not disgruntled officers, who with their abysmal command over English, struggle to talk with reporters, as portrayed in Newton, Bollywood’s latest entry to Oscars. Since top posts are filled with IPS cadre, a few of them are able to rise through the ranks. Even constabulary gets one or two promotion after 30-35 years of service.
NO WELL DEFINED ROLE: A CRPF Commandant who heads a battalion consisting of different companies may find his one of his companies manning an election in Rajasthan and another fighting Maoists in Chhattisgarh at the same time. He is like a compass that never points north. Also, when CRPF is deployed it is under state police.
It’s moral shattering for a commandant, an ACP equivalent, of 20-25 years experiences to take orders from a district SP who has 5-7 years of experience.
MINDLESS EXPANSION: By international standards — there should be at least 200 policemen per 1,00,000 persons. Presently, the figure stands at 182 on paper — and 138 on the ground. This is why states are often seen asking Centre’s help during any unpleasant situation.
The inability of the centre to resist these demands have led to a mindless expansion of CAPFs.The past two decades have seen a massive expansion in CAPFs. The strength of the CRPF is about three lakh personnel and of BSF is 2.5 lakh personnel.This has made human resource management a stupendous problem.
SHORTAGE OF RESOURCES: This unplanned and ad-hoc expansion has led to a shortage of resources, both in the term of properly trained manpower and combat readiness.
CAPFs lack proper rifles, bullet-proof jackets, night vision cameras, IEDs detectors.They need more transport facilities including helicopters and Anti landmine vehicles. In fact, basic amenities like proper food, drinking water, winter clothing, comfortable dress and footwear remain a distant dream.
DEPLORABLE WORKING CONDITIONS: There are no clear-cut boundaries of roles assigned to CAPFs. With Scare resource at their disposal, CAPF’s often find themselves under a heavy workload. In case of CRPF, jawans posted at airports, don’t get to sit for hours. Similarly, a BSF jawan patrolling largely volatile LOC doesn’t get any hardship allowance or risk allowance.
There is no concept of peace posting like the army. CAPF personnel keep working round of clock throughout the year. Since no family accommodation is available at place of posting, 80% of the personnel never get to live their family during entire service.
SUICIDE, FRATRICIDE AND ATTRITION: With no proper grievance redressal mechanism in place, all the above-mentioned factors often lead to jawans killing themselves or their fellow jawans and officer sometimes. Between 2012 and 2015, 32,785 personnel at different levels left CAPFs.The highest attrition rate was seen in the CRPF and BSF. It was also higher among the lower levels.
RAMPANT CORRUPTION: A lot of decisions are allowed at the discretion of local commanders. This leads to items being provided at rates higher than the normal and rations and other materials allocated to a unit being sold in open market.
WHAT HAD BEEN DONE SO FAR FOR CAPFs
Present government decision of hardship allowance in Naxalism hit area will be similar to what they get in J&K and North East (meaning a constable will get ~8000 extra per month) was a silver lining. After completing tenure in a Naxal area, they will get posted in the area of their choice (Inspired from American model in Afghanistan).
Out of turn promotion for exceptional service and bravery has also been deciding to booster morale of forces. Prior to this, previous government has decided to give monetary benefits under Modified Assured Career Progression (MACP) – given after 12,24 and 36 years of service. In other words, even if you don’t get a promotion, you still get higher pay-scale.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR CAPFs
Unless CAPFs have their own cadre from which a young officer, through a rigorous and transparent system can aspire to rise and become Director General of the force. Unless that happens, the dal will always be watery and the rotis will forever be burnt. It’s the issue of leadership. Leaders of force should be that person who knows its ebbs and flows, its ethos and its role.
According to the Bureau of Police Reforms and Development (BPR&D), there is a mammoth 37% shortage of policeman in states. That needs to be filled on a priority basis as it would greatly reduce states’ dependency on centre for CAPFs. This will enable CAPFs to carry out their primary duties.
Experts suggest that after 18 years of service, some CAPFs could switch to the armed Police of the state. This will make CAPFs attractive for youth as they will have the option to return to home state. It will also lower the age profile of CAPFs troops.
Rambling in the forces is not new yet the finances provided by the Centre for modernisation have been falling. Rs.2000 crores sanctioned till 2014 have fallen to mere Rs.595 crores in 2016-17. Instead of celebrating Holi and Diwali with jawans to suggest everything is hunky and dory, the government must consider releasing funds for modernisation of forces. A similar focus should be given to training and upgrading of infrastructure.
Shooting the messenger in absence of a law protecting the whistle-blower will not prevent discipline going haywire. Therefore proper grievance redressal mechanism should also be put in place.
CAPFs should not be given the ‘poor cousins treatment’ vis-a-vis defence forces.
Anyone who dies fighting for the country should be accorded the status of martyr / Shaheed and should be given associated benefits.
EVERY LOST LIFE IS EQUAL, EVERY LOSS IS GRAVE!