The Central Armed Police Forces have an important role to play in the security matrix of India. The angry piece published in ThePrint titled ‘Ex-BSF ADG Sood and his band of disgruntled brothers spreading lies against IGP Kashmir’ by IPS Abhinav Kumar, therefore, needs to be analysed in this light to put things in perspective.
Although Kumar is entitled to his views, he has chosen to exercise it by heaping criticism on “Sood (me) and other CAF cadre officers”, which is a sad reflection of what has become of the once elite IPS. His piece can become a case study to explain the concept of a ‘straw man argument’
It is beyond doubt that the comments made by IGP Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, even though at a closed-door meeting, were derogatory to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a CAPF, according to Abhinav himself, which has won several laurels during operations in Kashmir. CRPF commandant Vinay Kumar Tiwari who is commanding the 53 battalion was rightly aggrieved at slandering of his organisation and displayed moral courage in immediately bringing it on record. So, the veracity of the comments made by Vijay Kumar is not disputed. Abhinav Kumar in his column, misinterprets my point regarding return of medals (earned by IGP Kashmir). I had said that Kumar should return only those medals which he may have been awarded while in CRPF.
Trivialising important issues
Attempts to reduce the issue to a mere ‘a fight for promotion by a few thousand officers of the CAPF’ amounts to obfuscation of the larger issues of national security and denial of fundamental rights. The CAPF officers are fighting for their rights for two decades now, and it is not a case of some of them having suddenly developed spine after retirement. It must be pointed out that the promotional avenues of the 10,000-strong CAPF cadre will not improve with just over 200 of them promoted to the top posts, presently occupied by IPS officers. However, occupation of those posts by the CAPF officers will have a positive effect on improving national security because of their domain expertise.
The concern shown by Abhinav Kumar for enhancing avenues for subordinate and lower-ranked staff in the CAPFs is appreciable. This indeed is the cause of high attrition rate among the lower ranks. But the question is: what has stopped these IPS officers all these years from ensuring this? Fluctuating intake over the years, removal of the ranks of Lance Naik and Naik after the 1995 Pay Commission, introduction of the rank of Assistant Sub Inspector in General Duty Cadre, etc are some of the major blunders of personnel policies that have impeded the avenues of lower ranks. Immediate steps are required to ensure improvement and the CAPF cadre officers are wholeheartedly supporting it.
Several doubtful decisions taken by the IPS officers while serving in the CAPFs emanate from their inability to come to terms with the culture of these specialised forces. The sheer temporariness of their engagement with the CAPFs, which they join on deputation and the agenda of personal comfort and a soft posting, also prevents them from developing any connect with the organisation and the troops, who look up to their leaders to lead them, and not manage them.
One need not look far to verify these claims. Transfer of eight senior officers within a short period of time in CRPF and retention of large number of vehicles and manpower, even by long-retired IPS officers are some recent examples. The practice of posting IPS officers to Delhi or at a place of their choice with minimal exposure to operational areas, besides deputing them to head a specialised directorate, like Medical etc. are not just professionally wrong, but blatant misuse of government finances as each such act has a cost to the exchequer.
The unyielding obduracy of the IPS officers leading these forces, towards addressing genuine grievances of CAPF cadre officers has forced them to approach the courts. They resorted to this step after exhausting all avenues within the organisation and the Government of India. Similar obduracy displayed in even honouring the orders of the Supreme Court is what further rankled the CAPF officers.
Taking legal recourse to have their grievances addressed is a fundamental right, and this is what the cadre officers have done. Implied threat of legal action for exercising one’s fundamental right, therefore, betrays lack of knowledge of law as enunciated in numorous judgments of the Supreme Court since the landmark 1962 verdict in Kedar Nath Singh vs the State Of Bihar, which held that barring the call to overthrow a constitutionally elected government by violent means, no other criticism of government policies, however severe, qualify as sedition.
Abhinav Kumar’s claim that a section of the CAPF cadre has built a large corpus and is using it via NGOs to fund litigation against the IPS officers can be easily verified by the latter as they have at their disposal the entire police and investigative machinery.
Courts have attested CAPFs concerns
Kumar has been repeating arguments in all his pieces to advance the case of IPS with regard to the CAPFs by drawing up an imaginary constitutional principle, superior selection process, historical legacy etc. Many of these arguments have already been debunked by the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court.
The claims of the CAPF cadre officers are not only supported by the highest court of law in India, but also by several expert bodies, appointed by the government itself. The most recent being the Chidambaram-led committee, which expressly states that the field of selection of Director Generals of CAPFs should be expanded to include the CAPF officers. The 2006 Pay Commission had also recommended that all posts up to DIG should be held by the CAPF cadre officers. Besides, 50 per cent of all posts of IG and above, should also be held by CAPF cadre officers. An IIM-Calcutta report in the mid-nineties had recommended doing away with deputation. However, most of these recommendations have been given a quiet burial.
The allegations levelled by IPS officers, therefore, are baseless as the CAPF cadre officers are fighting an existential battle and the Government of India would do well to address these grievances.
In Latin, it is said: fiat justitia ne pereat mundus that is ‘Justice must be done, lest the world perish for want of that’.
The author is a retired additional director general of Border Security Force. Views are personal.