New Delhi: There is an acute shortage of Indian Police Service officers available for deployment in central government positions, and central police agencies and armed police forces could soon face the brunt.
There are 14 central police organisations (CPOs) and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in India, but no more than 16 IPS officers are available on the ‘offer list’ for central deputation at present, which, IPS officers say, is an all-time low.
The IPS has a central deputation reserve (CDR) — the maximum number of officers that can be deployed at the central level — of 1,075 officers.
Overall, there are 4,940 IPS posts across the country, of which 970 — or 19.64 per cent — were vacant as of 2018, according to a written reply from Union Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh in the Rajya Sabha.
Problem lies at the middle level
Abhinav Kumar, a 1996-batch IPS officer currently on deputation in the Border Security Force (BSF), said there are too few officers on the offer list, given the number of posts sanctioned.
“Ideally, the number of officers on the offer list should be two-three times the number of vacancies, so that the government has a pool to select the best officers from. But there are just one or two officers on the offer list at the mid-levels of DIG, SP, etc,” he said.
Kumar isn’t wrong. According to data released by the home ministry earlier this month, there is just one officer each available for central deputation in the ranks of superintendent of police (SP) and deputy inspector general (DIG), as against 144 sanctioned posts and 75 vacancies at the DIG level, and 29 posts and 17 vacancies at the SP level.
However, at the senior levels of Inspector General (IG), Additional Director General (ADG), Special Director General (SDG) and Director General (DG), there are fewer vacancies.
Against the sanctioned strength of 78, there are nine IG vacancies, while in the ADG, SDG and DG ranks, there is just one vacancy each, which is often a result of routine retirements.
The IG level has just two officers on the offer list, but the number of officers at the other senior levels is in reasonable proportion to the vacancies — at the ADG and DG levels, there are seven and five officers available on the offer list.
Why this shortage at the middle level?
According to several IPS officers ThePrint spoke to, the shortage at the middle levels is because between 1998 and 2006, the recruitment of IPS officers dropped to just 30-35 officers each year. As a result, those batches are very small.
“There was a time when the government wanted to reduce the bureaucracy, and reduced the recruitments of IAS and IPS massively. Since then, recruitment has gone up, but the officers who should be coming on central deputation in the ranks of DIG right now belong to those batches,” said an IPS officer currently on central deputation, who has been a member of the IPS Association.
“It is not just central deputation — at the state level, there is massive shortage of police officers. In such a situation, states are not relieving officers to come on deputation either,” said the official who did not wish to be named.
Former IPS officer Neeraj Kumar added: “Shortage of IPS officers has been a problem over the years. People are not keen to come on central deputation, sometimes the states don’t relieve them… Also, officers don’t always meet the criteria for central deputation if they are willing to come.”
Different rules for promotion
Abhinav Kumar pointed out another reason for the shortage. “The rules for the promotion of IPS officers at the state and central levels are different… So while the states promote officers quickly, the Centre takes longer,” he said.
“What that basically means is for an officer to want to come to the Centre, they would have to come at a lower rank, which is like an in-built disincentive.”
His assertion is validated by the fact that while at the state level IPS officers from the 1994 batch have become ADGs, at the central level, the last batch to be empanelled at ADG level is the 1989 batch.
Who will fill the vacant posts?
As a stop-gap arrangement, the government has started posting cadre officers of the CAPFs in the posts reserved for IPS officers. For example, at the DIG level, 15 posts in the BSF and 18 posts in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been temporarily diverted to cadre officers in order to fill in for the IPS officers.
But for CAPF officers, who wish to end the central deputation of IPS officers in their forces, the massive shortage of IPS officers is one reason why they should stop coming to these forces altogether.
“They have no officers in the states because of large-scale shortage, and as a result, state policing is suffering terribly,” said a senior CRPF officer. “Then why do they want to come to our forces? Because these posts are reserved for IPS officers, even our officers who are eligible and deserving cannot be promoted.”
However, IPS officers argue that central deputation cannot be ended abruptly.
“Our service formally provides that out of the total number of IPS officers in the country, 40 per cent posts will be reserved for the CDR… If central deputation of IPS officers ends in the CAPFs, what will happen to this 40 per cent CDR?” Abhinav Kumar asked.
Neeraj Kumar added: “It is not a good thing for the over-all functioning of CAPFs and agencies because the Centre’s options become restricted and they have to appoint whoever is available,” he added.
Shortage is ‘momentary’
A senior official in the Ministry of Home Affairs said the crunch is “momentary”.
“It is very important that the reservation of IPS officers in central agencies remains intact for what IPS officers bring to the table. It is true that a crunch is being felt at mid-leadership levels, but that is momentary,” said the official who did not want to be named.
“In a few years time, once the larger batches of IPS officers get promoted, it will be fixed. And as it is, at the top positions — DG, ADG etc — there will never be a shortage since the positions are few,” he added.
Another problem will arise soon
Over the last few years, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has started recruiting 150 IPS officers each year in order to fill the gap. But officers say that this too is a recipe for disaster for the future when there will be too many officers and too few posts.
“The fear is that a time will come when everyone would want to come to the Centre and there wouldn’t be as many posts,” the anonymous IPS officer quoted above said.
Abhinav Kumar, meanwhile, said in order to address the impending stagnation, there needs to be a long-term rethink about the role of the IPS in the country.
“The recruitments have to be done keeping in mind whether you want expansion of the police force in the country or not… It cannot be done randomly without thought,” he said.
Neeraj Kumar added: “In the long run, IPS officers have to be encouraged to come to the Centre in larger numbers…That’s the only way.”