Why Army and IPS officers shouldn't undermine the role of Central Armed Police Forces

Sanjiv Krishan Sood
Sanjiv Krishan SoodDec 27, 2017 | 14:34

Why Army and IPS officers shouldn't undermine the role of Central Armed Police Forces

Two recent articles, one by retired major Gaurav Arya titled “The Other” and another - “Militarization of police only undermines India’s internal security” - by Anubhav Kumar, an IPS officer, discussing the various aspects of Central Armed Police Forces, published on different online platforms make for an interesting read.

The major thrust of the authors is to advocate the case of their respective organisations to lead these forces. Arya recommends temporary transfer of leadership to Army officers whereas Kumar debunks the proposal. Through this piece I wish to give voice to the cadre officers of these forces whose fate and rights appear to be of no significance to the authors.


The seven Central Armed Police Forces have an important “specialised” role in the security matrix of India. The five border guarding forces that protect borders during peace time and are the first line of defence during hostilities, besides being often called upon for counter-insurgency operations, elections and to aid civil authorities. These forces are, therefore, required to be trained for multifarious roles, only a very small subset of which is common with role of the Army. None of the role is, however, common with policing as these border guarding forces do not have the responsibility of maintaining law and order, investigation or prosecution.   


Image: Reuters photo

The mandate of the CRPF is counter-insurgency and to assist civil administration in maintaining law and order. The CISF provides security to industrial and government establishments while the RPF is responsible for railway security.

Another fact is that these forces have a large home-grown cadre of leaders, only a fraction of who is able to reach the supervisory levels. The rich operational experience of these officers gets wasted as most supervisory and all policy level positions are reserved for the IPS officers. Ab initio lack of avenues and further curtailment through constitutionally untenable reservation of higher posts for IPS is making these officers restive. Resentment and dissatisfaction is manifested in large number of voluntary retirements, and plethora of court cases relating to personnel matters.


I agree with Arya about abilities and training of IPS officers which appears to have touched a raw nerve inviting such aggressive response from Kumar. However, Arya’s piece lacks depth of analysis and recommends impractical solutions. Why should these forces need Army officers to train their own whereas over the years adequate infrastructure and competent pool of trainers have been created within the organisations?

These forces have been conducting themselves well with operational level leadership leading from the front. Having served for 38 years in the BSF at various levels, I can vouch that the leadership provided by cadre officers is much better than Army, or IPS officers, given the intimate knowledge of men they command, ethos and operational philosophy of the BSF. Similar is the case with other central armed forces.

The "solution" to bring Army officers to command these forces for 15 years is like jumping from frying pan to fire. Cadre officers are mature and ready to take over the command immediately. One vacancy each in the BSF and the CRPF at level of additional DG is for the cadre officers, and at least 10 more officers are eligible at any given time to be promoted to that rank despite rules which impede rather than help their progression.


These additional DGs are ready to take over command any day and they will do a much better job of guiding these forces to face up to any challenge than the present IPS lot and also the Army officers.

Kumar, through an article rehashed from a previous one, on the other hand, advances specious arguments and recommends perpetuation of IPS reign by citing some imaginary “constitutional scheme of things”.

The IPS officers, who join not below the level of DIG, have no clue of what these forces are, what are their ethos and operational philosophy. Some of them are so ignorant that they seem to think that the difference between a 60mm mortar and an 81mm mortar is just that of 21mm. In fact, it took a lot of effort to dissuade an IPS inspector-general from recommending manpower reduction of 81mm mortar detachment while preparing restructuring proposals. Another officer, who is presently commanding one of the two theatres of the BSF, while on familiarisation visit prior to induction is said to have exclaimed where the Army was because he thought that it was the Army which was deployed ahead of BSF on borders. 

Lack of vision and depth of knowledge about these forces leads them to look for quick-fix solutions and populist orders which are detrimental to the discipline. So we had a DG of BSF who would issue on-the-spot orders for posting of whosoever stood up in his “sainik sammelan” and asked for a home posting.

There was another DG who out of ignorance tried to undermine the established regimental structure of the BSF and issued orders for transfer of one-third of manpower of a unit every year. Thanks to timely intervention by veterans, the Ministry of Home Affairs rescinded the order. However, they implemented this in the ITBP and the CRPF which is the basic reason for some serious operational setbacks suffered specially by the CRPF. The same DG, who like politicians, grandiosely declared 2013 as the “year of jawans” without allocating adequate funds. He was also responsible for introducing converse stripes for jawans with over 10 years of service, a measure which even the jawans find amusing as it doesn’t involve any elevation either in pay or responsibility.

Continued procrastination by IPS leaders has led to acute stagnation in all ranks. A jawan in BSF can hope for first promotion only after 22-23 years of service. There has been absolute lack of application of mind in planning recruitment at various levels. This not only affects morale, but also the standards of training through alternate overload or underutilisation of training capacity.

As a junior officer, I used to be overawed in the presence of IPS officers. But having worked with them at senior levels, I found that most of them simply are one-exam wonders who happened to be lucky. Not all of them have the ability to lead and guide these forces and give value addition. The only saving grace is the dedication of cadre officers which keeps the momentum going.

Most IPS officers lack expertise in their own domain of policing and are unable to guide subordinates even in basic functions of policing and investigation. Numerous instances can be quoted starting from handling of the Dera Sacha Sauda episode, Jat agitation, Bhopal jail break, Aarushi Talwar murder and latest being the 2G spectrum case. The public at large is given no importance with the focus mainly on political masters.

Their aim of coming to these armed forces is simply to avoid a political arrangement detrimental to their interests in states. Deputation to the Central Armed Forces under such circumstances provides them with opportunity to work in their home state with vast resources of these armed forces at their beck and call.

The argument that only about 50 IPS officers are on deputation to these forces is aimed at obfuscating the fact that these posts are all held at higher levels, thus depriving the cadre officers even of the limited avenues of progression.

As far as corruption is concerned, the less said the better. The case of an IPS officer utilising large number of personnel withdrawn from borders and other resources for the wedding of his daughter is of recent vintage. This must be granted that they operate with exceptional show of unity to protect their own in such cases even if they have personal differences.  

Kumar talks of some constitutional scheme of things. His reference is to Indian Administrative Service, including IPS, which has to provide pool of officers for central government. This, however, cannot override the constitutional right of cadre officers to be considered for the posts that the IPS have usurped in these specialised forces. That besides continued induction of IPS officers, who do not have training or domain knowledge of the functioning of these forces, is leading to serious compromise of national security and also dilution of policing standards.

It's high time that the government reviews its policy of deputation of IPS to these forces as its continuation is a serious compromise with national security. The IPS officers are neither trained for specialised functions that these forces perform nor their short tenures of few years enables them to get an insight into their functioning.

Last updated: December 27, 2017 | 14:34
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