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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Playing With Fire


ack of sensitivity and shortsightedness has harmed the professional and organsational efficiency of paramilitary forces
MAYANK SINGH | Issue Dated: November 10, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : para-military forces of India | CRPF | Rapid Action Force | VIP security | ITBP | NFFU | BSF |

Are you one of those who believe we need motivated soldiers to fight heavily-armed anti-national elements? If the answer is yes, then it is important to remember that when a fighter is deep into combat, his mind needs to be free of any worries.

Unfortunately, that is not happening. The million-strong para-military forces of India are battling their deadliest enemy: demotivation. Lack of promotional avenues, a relentless schedule which takes overworked soldiers to diverse assignments; from guarding the frontiers to counter insurgency operations, anti-Left wing operations, keeping watch over important installations, VIP duty, riot control and anti-smuggling operations, are taking heavy toll on performance and morale.

There is a case of serious operational stress with little attention paid to rest and recuperation (R&R). Director General Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Dilip Trivedi says that as the mandated lead force in internal security matters, their deployment is hundred percent. ‘‘About 80 percent of the force is in hard area; 83 battalions out of 228 are battling Left Wing extremism LWE, 60 are in Srinagar and 48 in the North East.” Of the remaining battalions, 10 each are with the anti-riot Rapid Action Force (RAF) and anti-Left wing Cobra battalions, the remaining five being Signal battalions.

In BSF, the other elite para-military force with 175 battalions, 140 guard international borders, 15 are into anti-Left wing operations, eight in counter-insurgency (CI) and counter terrorism while another eight are put on rotational duties like elections, VIP security and emergencies.

In 2001 the Group of Ministers (GoM) had categorically recommended that reserve battalions need much-needed rest – far from it, even battalions raised in the name of reserve are now committed to hard areas.

The Indo-Tibetian Border Force (ITBP) has another layer of difficulty to add. Between 1962, the year of the Indo-China war, to 2009, the entire force was deployed in hard and extreme hard area, theatres where the oxygen level is depleted. It is only in the last couple of years that Lucknow and Allahabad have also become postings but how soon they will be pushed into anti-Left wing operations is anyone’s guess.

Stagnation in promotions has eroded professional growth and motivation and premature retirements are becoming a norm. Left with no option, officers are resorting to litigation because the grievance redressal mechanism within the forces has failed. Officers from the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, and the Shashastra Seema Bal have moved courts in many recent cases.

Currently, on top of the para-military mind is this: provision for non-functional financial up gradation (NFFU). A December 2010 letter explaining the need for giving NFFUs to its officers enunciated that ‘‘Prolonged delays in promotions even after completing residency period are a persistent problem in BSF. Therefore, extending the non-functional financial up gradation is an available option to keep up the morale and get the best out of BSF officers.”

A senior officer who has just finished his command and is posted at headquarters told TSI that in the old days promotion was a big reason for self-improvement. ‘‘Today there are batches in BSF who will retire as deputy commandants or will become one only after 15 years. While, a temporary respite has come due to expansion in ITBP, CRPF and SSB, the future is bleak for the officers. A situation will come when getting even a single promotion for an assistant commandant to become a deputy commandant will become difficult.”

According to the BSF letter, the ‘‘NFFU to the next higher grade pay granted under the scheme is a fall back option only to be applied in the cases where officers of a particular service have not been granted promotion to a particular grade in normal course according to the due procedure”

But the reply to the BSF’s efforts and labour of love was a typical bureaucratic response, a terse one liner from a civil servant well ensconced in the South Block: ‘‘The proposal of BSF has been examined in this Ministry (Ministry of Home Affairs) but it is regretted that the same has not been agreed to.”

Says an ITBP officer: ‘‘Our issue is to find solutions for our force without any intent to usurp other people’s privileges or acting in competition or contravention of other forces.’’ For those perpetually involved in turf wars in the MHA and the government, that is an abject lesson to be learnt.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017