The widespread neglect of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has led to some shocking findings. Exclusive documents show that the men assigned to carry out anti-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir are not up to the mark – literally.
Around 30% of the CRPF personnel stationed in J&K regularly fail to hit their target when it comes to shooting exercises, and another 30% are overweight and hypersensitive — that too in the sensitive Srinagar sector. Given that the Valley is more restive than ever, after the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, and since more terror strikes in the state and elsewhere in the country are likely , these are alarming findings.
For the estimated 45,000 troops in the Valley (the number is now likely to have increased), there is just one training centre and firing range. Not just that. The CRPF men, unlike the Army, have no base camp and have to stay in private buildings, schools, hotels or factories and cinema halls.
K Vijay Kumar, security adviser to the Union home minister and former CRPF DG, says that the CRPF’s adaptable nature makes it the most sought-after force by state governments in anti-militancy and anti-Naxal operations and also in providing security during elections. But he admits that all this will fail if proper training is not given.
“If training suffers, troopers will get outdated and CRPF will not remain a superior force. Many expert committee recommendations need to be implemented,”Kumar said
As per rules, pre-induction, rotational training and firing practice in operational area is mandatory. But in Kashmir, there is simply no place available to conduct these seemingly mundane but vital exercises.
The rule is that of the seven companies in a battalion, six can be on active duty and one should undergo training for six weeks. However, the deteriorating situation in J&K has meant that the training protocol has taken a beating, with training companies being pulled back for active duty.
As a result, a company that is supposed to get rotational training once a year is no getting it once in two and a half years.
The vulnerability of the CRPF men was highlighted once again when hundreds of its men were injured in stone pelting in J&K, after the death of Wani. Firing from pellet guns during these protests had led to over 80 people being killed in the Valley, and hundreds more being blinded. Widespread national outrage caused a major battering of the CRPF’s image, from which it has still to recover.
Members of the Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs, who visited J&K in June, said that they will be raise these issues in a report which will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.
“The disparities between paramilitary forces and the Army, in terms of service conditions, payment and infrastructure are glaring and they need to be addressed, if security is to be strengthened and the morale of the forces is to be maintained,” said Biju Janata Dal MP Jay Panda, a member of the committee.
IG Srinagar: ‘CRPF troops must shoot better’
Srinagar IG Atul Karwal said that lack of shooting practice is a big worry for the CRPF. “The stress on training is less than it should be. It is all work, no training. How and when will we sharpen our edges?”
The luxury of time to practise and hone shooting skills is not there now. Officers say that before practising on a firing field, troops require ‘dry practice’ without live ammunition. This will help them go through the motions and revise lessons. This is essential to preserve ammunition and marksmanship.
“We don’t get adequate time to practise on the range, because of which marksmanship is not that good. The four-month winter period in the Valley, when temperatures drop to sub-zero levels, also takes away practice time,” Karwal said.