Unrest growing in India’s army, central armed police forces

On January 14, 2017, an army soldier from Dehradun reportedly approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly with a complaint. He was subjected to torture and disciplined, according to the report.

On January 13 2017, Constable Balvir of  the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in Aurangabad in Bihar, was reported to have shot and killed four of his colleagues. Earlier, the family had reportedly informed CISF local authorities that Balvir had a psychiatric problem and he be not provided with firearms. If true, this constituted a grave negligence on the part of the CISF officers. A video clip of the incident went viral on the social media.

On January 14, 2017, the army chief said that in an armed force as large as 12 million, complaints are bound to come; all complaints should come to him through his Complaints Box.

On January 12, in another video clip in which Yagya Pratap Singh ‘Lance Naik’, a junior ranking official of the Indian army, stated that those who performed ‘sahayak’ (assistant) duties, are like ‘walking dogs’ who do menial duties; this is not the way to treat juniors. Singh’s wife complained that his mobile phone, which carried a video showing how soldiers are subjected to menial tasks, had been confiscated by his army seniors.

On January 11, Constable Jeet Singh of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) posted a video clip on the social media demanding parity of pay and allowances with army for men of his rank in the CRPF. He claimed that CRPF men posted in border areas, performed more arduous duties than the army men did in similar areas.

On January 10, a constable Tej Bahadur Yadav of the Border Security Force (BSF), posted a video clip on the social media showing the substandard food provided to BSF men; army men in border areas in Jammu and Kashmir had a better deal. Singh complained of corruption and inefficiency on the part of senior BSF officers who sold in open market the essential supplies meant for subordinates.

On January 14, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which controls the BSF, rejected as baseless the complaint made by the BSF Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav.

On January 13, the Times of India newspaper used strong language in an editorial condemning the reported criminal diversion of rations supplied to paramilitary personnel in difficult areas for sale and profit in the open market by some senior officials.

The newspaper traced the problem to deep-rooted structural issues in the central paramilitary forces in which their leaders came from the Indian Police Service (IPS), an All India Service. They did not belong to the established Cadres of these forces and were subject to frequent transfers. These leaders were not committed to the men they led.

Hence the profound dissatisfaction.

While the Indian army has about 1.2 million men, the seven Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) in India such as the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF) Assam Rifles (AR) and so on number over 1.3 million.

Historically, the most important of these is the CRPF, which grew from a very small force at independence in 1947 to about 300,000 at present.

The BSF comes next with a strength of 250, 000 men.

The Assam Rifles deployed in the strategic Northeast  has a strength of about 66,000 men.

The Constitution of India says that law and order is a state subject. Nearly 30 states and several Union Territories (UTs) in India have their own civilian police forces for law and order purposes.

The Union Territory of Delhi, under the direct control of the Union Home ministry, has its own state assembly, cabinet, chief minister but its police force is under the control of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Other UT’s too have similar arrangements. The UTs function under Lt. Governors and states governed by Governors.

Despite Constitutional provisions, the government of India has raised over time seven large Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) regularly deployed in states for law and order management in addition to state police forces. This diluted the ‘federalism’ of the Indian polity.

These seven CAPFs are the CRPF, BSF, Assam Rifles, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Special Service Bureau (SSB) and National Security Guard (NSG).

CRPF is the most important of the central armed police forces. It performs a wide range of duties including management of law and order, counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism in the states and the Center. It supplements state police forces in these tasks and protects vital installations. Among other things, it includes a Rapid Action Force (RAF) to maintain communal and social harmony. CRPF is deployed all over India.

The BSF was raised in 1965 and has gone from strength to strength. Its operational responsibility includes guarding international borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The origin of Assam Rifles (AR) goes back to 1835 and it is therefore the oldest paramilitary force in India. It is deployed in the Northeast of India specially to deal with insurgency. It is funded by the MHA  but operates under the control of the Defense Ministry and the army.

The state police chiefs in the Northeast have no control over the functioning of the Assam Rifles, which has been accused of serious human rights violations. It reports directly to the army headquarters in New Delhi and not accountable to local governments.

Men of the CAPFs do not enjoy the perks and privileges enjoyed by the army men in the border areas. The Assam Rifles functioning under the army enjoys these perks and privileges.

Other reasons for discontent in the CAPFs is poor leadership.

Though Police Reforms Commissions were set up in independent in India in 1977 and 2007, none of their recommendations have been implemented so far.

There is a need to decentralize the Indian police and make it accountable to elected local bodies.

The British had stated in the mid-1850’s that the Indian police were ‘all but useless’ in the prevention and ‘sadly inefficient’ in the detection of crime;  it was unscrupulous in the exercise of its authority; it had a ‘generalized reputation for corruption and oppression’.

Indian politicians have never been serious about structural reforms in the police. They seem satisfied with piecemeal social engineering from time to time.

No wonder police unrest and discontent arise from time to time.

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