The officers of the Indian Police Service justify their continued domination of all senior posts in the Central Armed Police Forces cadre by citing historical reasons. The IPS officers often remind the cadre officers that it is they who have raised these central paramilitary forces and brought them to their present levels of organisational and operational efficiency.
But the IPS officers using this argument to perpetuate their hegemony over CAPF officers is like the British justifying their rule over India by calling themselves as the best rulers and that, if given independence, Indians would ruin their country.
Any organisation, especially a uniformed fighting force like a CAPF, needs experienced manpower when it is being established. While it is correct that the IPS officers were at the helm of affairs when these forces were raised, what is also true, but is largely ignored by the IPS fraternity, is that the core of these forces at the operational levels was formed by the released emergency commissioned officers and directly recruited officers. Therefore, attempts by a section of IPS officers to take exclusive credit for raising these forces is a bit overstretched.
IPS officers don’t inspire cadre
The CAPF cadre is now large, experienced and matured to take over the reins of these forces. The officers not only know the nuts and bolts – which is the most important criteria for commanding troops in these regimented organisations – but have also gained wide experience, superior vision about the forces, and the ability to hold their own in a group where senior most representatives from various wings of the government are represented. Senior cadre officers, by virtue of living and working 24X7 with the troops, also possess the ability to inspire and motivate the junior officers by leading from the front – something that cannot be said about the IPS officers anymore.
I would refrain from questioning their ability as policemen, even though a lot of people do question it in view of the lacklustre – if not outrightly bad – law and order situation in most Indian states today.
However, one wouldn’t be wrong to question their ability to inspire and manage large CAPF organisations.
How can they inspire confidence when they leave no stone unturned to impede rather than advance the juniors’ career prospects? It is utterly demoralising for the cadre to have the Supreme Court judgments and instructions on Organised Group A Service (OGAS) and Non-Functional Financial Upgradation (NFFU) given a whole new interpretation to deny benefits to more than 90 per cent of the serving and retired CAPF officers on recommendations made by IPS bosses to the Narendra Modi government? They cannot inspire confidence when the CAPF officers have to approach the court for a routine matter like cadre review.
IPS officers and poor decisions
The IPS officers have stopped inspiring the rank and file of the CAPFs because they are not at grips with the complexities of managing these forces, which is implicit in several ill-conceived decisions taken by them.
For example, they had in 2013 attempted to break the identity of units in the Border Security Force (BSF) by getting the central government to order rotation of one-third of troops every year. The move was aborted because of timely intervention by BSF veterans. But the same has been implemented in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), a decision directly responsible for a large number of causalities suffered by the CRPF in particular.
Similarly, without giving any thought to the impact on command, control and operational ability, the IPS officers have resorted to adding an additional company in each unit of these forces, thereby increasing the span of command of Unit Commandant by almost 25 per cent. This has adversely impacted the operational efficiency and discipline in the forces. Another long-term effect of this ill-thought decision is the increased stagnation because proportionate number of posts was not created at higher levels.
Misuse of power, corruption
Another reason for the lack of confidence in the abilities of IPS officers is the open misuse of manpower and corruption that they are widely perceived to indulge in. An IPS Inspector General posted in the BSF in Bengaluru had allegedly withdrawn personnel from border duty and put them on work at his daughter’s marriage in Chandigarh.
There are IPS officers who have been removed from the duty of commanding frontiers on charges of smuggling. Some BSF officers too have been implicated but the impact of an IG commanding over 20,000 troops being involved is unimaginable.
Deputation not required
The IPS officers often site Article 312 of the Constitution to buttress their claim for deputation to CAPFs. No one doubts the status of IPS as an “All India Service”, but the Article nowhere says it is mandatory for them to come to the CAPFs. They come on the basis of rules framed under the provisions of respective Acts of these forces. The IPS Act and rules cannot claim superiority over the Acts and rules of these forces.
The principles of deputation also need to be kept in mind. It is required that deputation should be resorted to only when a sufficient number of trained or qualified officers in a particular CAPF organisation is not available, which isn’t the case anymore. So deputation of IPS officers in the CAPFs no longer holds any rationale. The cadre officers are put through orientation training before promotion to each level and are ready to take on any responsibility, including commanding the force. The IPS officers, on the other hand, are not aware of the “nuts and bolts” of CAPFs as implied by former BSF chief Prakash Singh in his recent article in ThePrint.
An argument often advanced is that the deputation of IPS officers to CAPFs enhances the liaison with civil police and the administration. But reciprocal deputation will also achieve the same purpose and add to the quality of understanding about capabilities and limitations of CAPFs among bureaucrats and police officers. So why is the latter not done?
Even the Parliamentary Committee headed by former Home Minister P. Chidambaram had in December last year recommended appointing CAPF officers as Director Generals of these forces and also ending the hegemony of IPS officers.
The CAPFs have been raised for a specific role and are often required to assist the civil administration in anti-militancy, counter-insurgency and election duties. Both the state police force and the CAPFs are required to ensure national security. It will be an extremely positive step if both the CAPF and the IPS cadres recognise the contributions of each other instead of the latter claiming a superiority.
The Narendra Modi government is urged upon to accept the genuine requests of CAPF officers and grant full benefits of NFFU and Organised Group A Service as ordered by the Supreme Court. Not deputing IPS officers up to the level of Inspector General in the CAPFs will also go a long way in enhancing the law and order situation in the states where there is an acute shortage of IPS officers.
The author is a retired additional director general of Border Security Force. Views are personal.