New Delhi: There’s a curious paradox in the appointments of senior police officers in the central forces. While some are juggling multiple high-profile jobs, others are at a loose end. A prominent example of the former trend is Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sujoy L. Thaosen. Within the last eight months, he has served as the chief of no fewer than three border-guarding forces as well as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Currently, Thaosen is serving as the director general (DG) of the CRPF, the government’s largest paramilitary force, and is also handling the additional charge of helming the Border Security Force (BSF), which guards India’s frontiers with Bangladesh and Pakistan, adding up to over 7,000 km.
Before this, too, the 1988-batch officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre had a lot on his plate. In June last year, Thaosen was appointed as the DG of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which guards India’s borders with Nepal and Bhutan, and in August he was given additional charge of heading the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP). In October, he took over as the CRPF chief and in December, he was given additional charge as DG of the BSF.
Speaking to ThePrint, Thaosen said he had a good grip on both his current posts.
“I know both the forces now, as I worked in BSF in the rank of special DG before,” he said. “Both the forces are very crucial to the country’s security. One is a border-guarding force, while the CRPF does almost everything in the country, starting from managing elections to counter-insurgency operations, and law and order management if needed.”
However, while some DG-rank officers like Thaosen hold more than one charge, home ministry data accessed by ThePrint shows that others who are also fully qualified are still waiting for a posting.
Senior retired and serving IPS officers that ThePrint spoke to said that this imbalance should be addressed.
Retired IPS officer Prakash Singh, who is known for his contributions in bringing about police reforms, indicated that this situation was a lose-lose for everyone.
“The officer who holds such additional charges is clearly overworked. His peers and colleagues, who are empanelled or on the offer list also feel demotivated. There are many such officers, who were empanelled but did not get postings,” he said.
‘One needs to work harder as the chief’
A native of Haflong in Assam, Thaosen was described as a “competent” and efficient officer by several of his peers and colleagues ThePrint spoke to.
He is known to be a good sportsman, and even won an award for his achievements in outdoor activities while training at the National Police Academy. He is a scholar too, having done his post-graduation from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and then completing a PhD on protection of human rights and police activities from MP’s Ujjain University in 2006.
Over the years, the officer has held numerous important positions at the state and central levels. He served as a deputy inspector general (DIG) and IG in the elite Special Protection Group (SPG), which is responsible for the PM’s security, between 2004 and 2013, when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was in power. He then returned to his cadre until he was brought back on central deputation in 2020.
When asked about the challenges of heading two central forces at a time, Thaosen said: “There are different requirements for both forces. So, to do justice to both as the chief, one needs to work harder. I am doing that,” he added.
Both the CRPF and BSF are large forces with crucial responsibilities and different functions. According to their official websites, the CRPF has 246 battalions, while BSF has 192. Both forces are spread across borders and states. Senior officers, including the DG, need to travel to the battalion headquarters at the borders.
A retired IPS officer who had also served as the DG of the BSF described the situation as highly “undesirable”.
“It is humanly impossible for an officer to keep shuttling between the force headquarters of BSF and CRPF, or keep visiting the battalion headquarters of such forces,” the ex-DG said. “There are different mandates for different forces and agencies. How can one officer manage everything while the government has an adequate number of officers waiting in the queue?”
Many posts for some, none for others
Thaosen is not the only IPS officer who has been given more than one substantial charge at a time.
For instance, Surjeet Singh Deswal, a 1984-batch officer of the Haryana cadre, served stints as the DG of five central forces in a span of two-odd years.
He was appointed as the DG of the ITBP in 2018 and also headed the SSB as an additional charge. More additional charges followed in 2020: as the DG of the CRPF in January, DG of the BSF in March, and then the DG of the counter-terrorism force National Security Guard (NSG) in September.
In May 2021, then CRPF chief Kuldiep Singh, a 1986-batch IPS officer of West Bengal cadre, was also given the additional charge of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which probes terror-related crimes.
But if it’s raining posts for some officers, others of similar seniority and rank are facing drought despite vacancies.
The home ministry’s offer list records the names of officers who have been released by their respective state cadres to serve on central deputation, but are awaiting a posting.
The 5 January offer list included the names of three DG-rank officers who are still awaiting appointment — V.K. Bhawra, a 1987-batch-IPS officer of the Punjab cadre; Arvind Kumar, 1988-batch officer the MP cadre; and Sanjay Kundu, 1989-batch officer of Haryana cadre.
Similarly, many officers already empaneled as DGs end up waiting, sometimes until retirement. ThePrint had reported in May last year that 28 officers, out of which 24 were from the 1988 batch, had been empaneled for DG-rank posts. More have been empaneled since.
Yet, many did not get a post, while other serving DGs were given additional charges.
“We have had situations where the positions of the DG for BSF, ITBP, and NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) have been vacant. There are so many officers who have been empanelled to head such organisations, but they are waiting. The empanelled officers have been deemed fit to hold these posts, which is why the whole empanelment process takes place,” said the former BSF DG. “It is not only unfair to officers but an injustice to the force.”
Another senior serving IPS officer said holding an additional charge was akin to acting as a “caretaker”.
“The officer holding an additional charge of a force or an agency or organisation cannot take any major decision or decide a ground-shifting policy. He works like a caretaker. Why do such crucial forces or agencies go without an incumbent head? There is no dearth of officers,” the IPS officer said.
“Assigning an officer multiple charges is not an ideal situation and this is injustice to all the charges the officer holds,” he added.
Poor planning or waiting for the ‘right’ officer?
According to Prakash Singh, the practice of giving additional charges to officers reflected improper planning.
“This is an unpleasant situation — for the officer who is holding multiple charges, for the forces, and for other officers too. The government knows who is retiring when. They should plan the succession properly,” said Singh.
Proposing a way forward, the former BSG DG said that the government had data about when officers’ tenures would end as well as their dates of retirement. “Like all other crucial ministries and also like the Army, the DGs of such important forces or agencies should be posted a month before the incumbent’s retirement,” he said.
“The officers can be posted as OSDs [officers on special duty] like it is being done in the case of ministries. So the officers also get practical knowledge about the force,” he added.
The former BSF chief observed that it was not clear why there was “such an unwillingness” to appoint dedicated chiefs to the forces and agencies.
However, he hazarded a guess: “We generally hear that the government waits for the right officer.”
(Edited by Asavari Singh)