There is anger brewing. And the recent loss of 25 men in a little over a month has little to do with it. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), India’s internal security backbone, a ready response to challenges posed by insurgencies, law and order situations or election duties, is in a bad shape.
In a rare and dramatic move aimed at opposing a controversial new policy, seen by many as a personal initiative of the Director General (DG) himself, a section of CRPF cadre officers have knocked the doors of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). So severe were the contents of the complaint that a surprised and taken aback MHA immediately stepped in, stalled the policy implementation and set up a committee to examine the same. Sources in the MHA indicated that the CRPF top brass had kept them in the dark over ‘such a far reaching proposal’. A copy of this 11-page letter addressed to Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and titled ‘Damaging the basic structure of the CRPF’ was accessed by this correspondent.
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—————————————————————————————————————————————–Aimed at providing higher level of satisfaction to its Non Gazetted Force Personnel (NGOs) which comprise Inspectors and below, including constables as well as improve command and control, this policy was formulated last year. After discussions, on January 31, 2014, the process was initiated wherein NGOs were given an option to indicate and opt to work in the region of his/her preference. “It was opined that this will go a long way in reducing the stress being felt by the constabulary due to long absence from their family, adverse environment and hazardous duties,” said the policy document.
Four ‘Zones’ were created and the area divided and based on feedback received from the NGOs, mass transfers were to take place after the conclusion of General Elections 2014. It was claimed that the financial implication emerging out of this policy had been already analysed and that the policy was ‘financially neutral.’
Contradicting this policy, the unsigned letter which ends with a scribbled word above ‘A CRPF officer’, goes on to lambast the top brass for its ‘whimsical’ attitude in interfering with the organisational structure of the force. The document is divided into categories like ‘North East aspect’, ‘Administrative Matters’, ‘Tac Hqs’, ‘Attachments’, ‘Budget Matters’, ‘Operational Aspect’, ‘Training’, ‘Command and Control’, ‘Functional Matters’, ‘Specialised Units’, ‘National Character’, ‘Jawans’ Point of View’, ‘Other Matters’ and ‘Conclusion’.
Clearly, the MHA saw some merit in the letter and decided to step in, bringing the effort of the DG CRPF to a naught.
Said a source, “IPS officers come on deputation and as a result have limited exposure to the force. Instead of taking down the force and order a complete revamp, they should use their positions and improve our work conditions. It isn’t that all the problems have been solved.”
“The majority of the force, which comprises the NGOs were happy about it. The only ones complaining were some disgruntled CRPF cadre officers who, as a result of this policy, had to move out of their comfort zones and toil like the men have been doing for all these years,” said Dilip Trivedi, DG CRPF. When asked about the conflict within the force when his officers chose to bypass him and approach the MHA, he said, “It should not have happened. But we will clarify our stand to this committee and hope for the best. I am confident.”
Armoured vehicles get the short shrift
The biggest killer, in the Maoist-insurgency is the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). As on date, the only mobile protection against the IED is the Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV).
As per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the CRPF has been authorised a total of 534 MPVs of which the force has 106, at present. This gap notwithstanding, the top brass has been unable to get its act together for years, on the road ahead.
A source pointed out, “In a meeting chaired by the DG CRPF last month, it was decided to surrender whatever limited MPVs were in hand. It came as a shock because it showed how disconnected the top brass is from the field commanders, who actually have written letters seeking more such vehicles.”
When asked, Trivedi admitted to this and added, “There were incidents, a while ago, in which the MPVs did not live up to what was expected of them. That caused a decline in interest. However, recently our ground formations have informed us that they need these vehicles. So we are re-framing the Qualitative Requirements (QRs) now,” he said.
It was in October 2009 that the MHA had first asked the then DG of CRPF if the force wanted to re-frame the MPV QRs.
Lessons from Vietnam War
According to a senior Home Ministry official, the CRPF which is literally fighting a ‘war’ against the Maoist insurgents needs to take some lessons from the Americans who were fighting a similarly unknown enemy in Vietnam.
The CRPF did away with the Annual Change Over (ACO) policy where entire battalions would move from location to location and replaced it with piecemeal transfer policy of personnel. Quoting from the much-acclaimed book ‘Crisis in Command’, the official said, “This book says, ‘Had the replacement system used in Vietnam been different, rotating unit replacements instead of individual replacements, cohesion might have been greater…we suspect that the common experience of units training together, shipment overseas, common battle experiences with known and familiar officers and NCO’s all might have functioned collectively to prevent, or at least, minimise the emergence of those factors which we have associated with disintegration,’ and its so relevant to CRPF’s situation.”
Continuing confusion hits the CRPF
From 1939 till 2011, the CRPF was following the Annual Change Over (ACO) policy where 1/3rd of all the battalions would physically move and relocate annually. This would ensure that those in hard areas get better postings and vice versa. This is a system which is still followed by the Indian Army as well as the Border Security Force (BSF). This was, however, discontinued from January 12 2010 after a ‘detailed review’.
Transfer policy, replacing the ACO, was issued on October 24, 2011. Under this policy, there was to take place annual transfer of up to 25 percent of the rank and file from battalions which had completed four years.
On January 31, 2014, CRPF issued a ‘Standing Order No. 01/2014’ in which it was mentioned, ‘transfer policy could not be implemented uniformly’. It was further stated that the transfer policy caused ‘dissatisfaction and was not implementable’, paving the way for the re-organisation policy which has now been challenged.