In the winter session of the Parliament, minister of state for home RPN Singh had some startling figures to disclose. He told the house that more than 9,000 personnel from India’s elite paramilitary forces had quit their jobs even in the uncertainity of severe economic recession. Singh was merely touching the tip of an iceberg. In the last five years more than 50,000 men have quit the paramilitary forces in India.
While the number may not seem too big as compared to the overall strength of 10 lakh paramilitary forces, it does point to an extremely disturbing trend. Lack of promotions, a flawed grievance redressal system and utter apathy of policy makers are going to severely hamper the trajectory of the forces that are the main up keepers of law and order and internal security inside the country.
And their duties are onerous, to say the least. From being posted in terrorhit areas to high mountains; from deserts to the coast line, from industrial safety to tackling Maoists, paramilitary forces have their hands full in every sense of the word. It is on them that the government depends to keep its internal house in order.
It is not that sections in the government are not aware of the difficult situation that the brave men are in; it is just that they do not care. IIM Ahmedabad was asked to study the main ills plaguing the paramilitary forces in 2012; in 2011 the Institute of Defence Study and Analyses (IDSA) conducted a study on the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the many problems confronting the force. These are in addition to several ministry of home affairs and the forces’ own internal reports and memos dealing with the plight of uniformed personnel that do their job without asking questions, often at the cost of their lives.
Consider this. In 2012-2013, eight cases which involves officers of senior and junior ranks of the CRPF, Border Security Forces (BSF), Indo-Tibetian Border Police (ITBP), Shashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) have moved various courts on issues pertaining to promotion and financial parity. Quite similar to demands made in many government organisations but with one crucial difference: it has a direct repercussion on life and citizens of India.
Take Naxalism. In 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh singled out Naxalism as the biggest security challenge that faced the country. If that is indeed the case then it is clear that the enemy within the country poses a bigger threat to the people than the enemy sitting behind the borders.
Why are things going out of control? Officers say the redressal grievances system within individual paramilitary forces has gone for a toss. The two things uppermost on their minds are nonfunctional financial upgradation and avenues for greater opportunities, both of which officials say they have been denied despite orders issued and decisions taken.
An officer, who speaks for many, points out: “We are part of uniformed services which are ready to fulfill our duty towards the country but it appears that people are not bothered about problems which concern us.” He is right; the obstacle of promotions – even a single one – have benighted the forces for decades, without any succor in sight and without any apparent concern from the powers that be.
For instance, batches are waiting for the last decade to get to the next ladder; a second-in-command (S in C) to a deputy commandant or commandant. The BSF has deputy commandants who have spent time in office for a minimum of five years, if not more and will most likely to remain there for another seven years to become S in C! The CRPF is faced with more of the same. An officer told TSI that till 2018 there will only be maximum of 50 promotions in the middle and higher ranks in the CRPF, which makes promotions look like a lottery scheme.
Just how apathetic the system is can be gauged from the fact that the batches who have got their promotions were plain lucky: it did not happen because of any policy changes or the fact that their long-standing demands had been looked into; it happened because in order to counter the ever-rising internal security threats to the nation, additional recruitment of paramilitary was deemed necessary by the powers that be.
Naturally, up the ladder too, the situation remains similar. Batches will superannuate after one single promotion from assistant commandant to deputy commandant as every promotion in paramilitary forces is vacancy-based. Since there are no vacancies in the immediate foreseeable future, there is hurry to leave a tough paramilitary life for a vocation which is softer and offers better dividends. The situation in the ranks is even more alarming. A constable rises to become a havaldar after a whopping 18 years and with more and more of them being educated than before, life outside the forces appear as a better option.
There are other side effects as frustrations are mounting. According to a 2012 ministry of home affairs report, nearly 400 paramilitary men committed suicide or died in fratricide incidents since 2009, which is more than the number of paramilitary men killed in action fighting terrorists. The deaths since 2009 due to suicides and fratricides in the paramilitary forces are higher than similar casualties reported in the Indian army.
The irony here is that the Parliament has been kept well informed on all developments and MPs have from time to time shed some crocodile tears without much avail.
Officers say the out flux has been triggered off by the lack of any policy to support, rehabilitate or resettle men who have served the nation. There is little or no help for families queuing up for medical problems and obviously there can be no way associations will be allowed to be set up, leaving average personnel with little choice but to approach civil courts.
Interestingly, possible solutions have been put forth by the Sixth Pay Commission itself which had suggested non-functional financial upgradation as an incentive to keep employees motivated. The system defeats common sense. Notwithstanding the next promotion, an officer in most of Group A services get the financial benefits of his next rank within the stipulated time. But this sound logic does not apply to those serving their hardest postings, for instance the Dandkaranya region of central India which extends over an area of about 35,600 square miles and includes parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. In the last decade or so, it has emerged as the hotbed of Maoism in India and is patrolled and guarded by various paramilitary outfits. It also does not apply to those forces called at short notices to quell rioters in various parts of the country and help in the fair conduct and national and state elections. This is the just reward for serving life threatening beats!
This article is courtesy the Sunday
Indian (Newsweekly) New Delhi,
January 10, 2014