As an Indian Police Service officer who has commanded the Uttar Pradesh Police, the Assam Police, and the Border Security Force, it is distressing for me to see the discontent and indiscipline among certain sections of officers of the Central Armed Police Forces cadre.
It is a total tamasha. A section of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) cadre officers, perhaps under the influence of some vested interests, have embarked on a virulent campaign against the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in social and print media, filing contempt cases and writ petitions against the central government with a view to edge out IPS officers from the CAPFs. They have also written to Home Minister Amit Shah, and met BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking their intervention in the matter. Their main argument is that IPS officers do not have the expertise to lead the various CAPF organisations and that, due to the deputation of IPS officers, promotion prospects of the CAPF cadre officers are adversely affected.
What went wrong
Both the IPS officers and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) cadre officers are to blame. A number of IPS officers on deputation to the central forces have preferred to serve at the headquarters, spending minimum time at the frontiers. There are officers who give an impression of avoiding tough assignments. The MHA has contributed to the disharmony by promoting, in quite a few instances, IPS officers to the rank of Director General of Police (DGP) for extraneous considerations. One officer was made the DGP because he had helped change the electoral fortune of a serving minister. Another was promoted under the influence of a chief minister, and so on. These officers naturally failed to deliver.
The Intelligence Bureau (IB), by virtue of its clout at the Centre, has every now and then imposed on CAPF organisations DGP-rank officers who had not put on the uniform for 25 to 30 years. No wonder, these officers could not win the confidence or loyalty of the force. These examples, however, do not take away from the vision and leadership that the IPS has given to the CAPF organisations, helping them occupy their place in India’s internal security.
CAPF officers are also aggrieved at the delay in granting the financial benefits due to them after a Supreme Court order in February gave them Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU) and the status of an Organised Group A Service. The NFFU orders are being implemented in accordance with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) policies and the Recruitment Rules of respective organisations. The Narendra Modi government has generously agreed to a one-time relaxation in residency period to give the benefit of NFFU to a larger number of officers. However, a section of CAPF cadre officers is still unhappy. This is inexplicable. Last week, the Supreme Court reiterated that its earlier judgment allowing the grant of NFFU and OGAS to the CAPF cadre will not affect IPS deputation to the CAPFs.
Losing trust, forgetting history
During my nearly six-year tenure in the Border Security Force (BSF), I never felt like an outsider. I was for the force and the force was for me. While serving in Punjab, when terrorism was at its peak, I was confident that the BSF personnel entrusted with my security would fight until their last breath before any harm comes to me. This bonding appears to have weakened. In fact, there is suspicion in place of trust, class feeling in place of camaraderie.
A force that forgets its history and tries to erase the memory of its great commanders can have no future. CAPF officers would do well to remember that all central forces, except the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF), were raised and nurtured by IPS officers. If these forces have generally given a stellar account of themselves, it is under the leadership of IPS officers. Poor specimens are always there, and so are occasional failures. The Indian Army’s ignominious defeat in the 1962 War with China does not detract from its excellence.
Certain incontrovertible facts need to be placed on record. Terrorism in Punjab was defeated by a dedicated group of IPS officers of Punjab Police and the CAPFs. Operation Black Thunder, one of the finest anti-terror operations undertaken anywhere in the world, was planned and executed by IPS officers. The Naxals were defeated in Andhra Pradesh by the state police and its Greyhounds led by IPS officers. The insurgency in Tripura was put down by officers from the same pool, as was terrorism in the Terai area of Uttar Pradesh.
It’s calibre that counts
The leadership of an armed police organisation requires a number of traits. Knowledge of nuts and bolts is desirable but not enough. The officer must have the vision, the ability to plan strategically, courage to lead from the front, be able to inspire and motivate and hold his own in a group where senior-most representatives from different wings of the government – secretaries, chief ministers, bureaucrats and others – are present. Only the finest police officers of India can play that role. As regards to promotional opportunities, CAPF officers are better off than officers of the Indian Army.
Article 312 of the Constitution of India provides for the creation of All India Services common to the Union of India and the states. A certain number of posts in different police organisations of the central government are filled by IPS officers allotted to various state cadres. The IPS officers are inducted in the CAPFs by virtue of their calibre and excellence to ensure a vital link with civil authorities and state governments. As supposedly stated by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the All India Services “bring about an optimum and uniform standard of administration throughout the country”.
Time for govt to step in
The content and tenor of the slander campaign against the IPS show a lack of discipline and decorum. In fact, the writings and actions of some CAPF cadre officers amount to a breach of the Conduct Rules and even incitement to disaffection. This is unacceptable. How would the cadre officers react if the subordinate ranks start a similar campaign on social media against them? There is no place for trade unionism in our uniformed forces. There is a robust system of grievance redressal in place within each CAPF. The MHA too plays a proactive role in resolving their grievances. However, no grievance can justify the kind of campaign we are witnessing on social media by a small group of CAPF cadre officers.
The Narendra Modi government needs to undertake immediate short-term and long-term measures to deal with the problem. It must ensure speedy implementation of the Supreme Court’s decisions and, at the same time, put down with a heavy hand all manifestations of indiscipline. It should also set up a high-powered committee to go into the multifarious problems afflicting the CAPF – problems of leadership, promotional opportunities at different levels, shortage of resources, lack of training, optimum strength of these forces, and other relevant issues. Letting things drift would have disastrous consequences.
The writer is a former Director General of Border Security Force.
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