Reforming the home ministry’s troops

In my DNA column – why India’s paramilitary forces need structural reform

This is an excerpt from the article that appears in today’s DNA.

Why do we need BSF for the border with Pakistan, but separate forces called ITBP for the border with China and the Sashastra Seema Bal for the borders with Nepal and Bhutan? Why should the Assam Rifles be distinct from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)? My colleague Bibhu Prasad Routray argues that it is a good idea to merge the various central paramilitary forces into a single force. Indeed, given that most of them are doing each others’ jobs anyway, wouldn’t it make sense to bring them under one chain of command? If this is way too radical, then why not rationalise them into three forces with distinct roles—internal security, border security and infrastructure security? This is as good for accountability as it is for the forces to develop greater competence within their domains.

In fact, massive expansion of central paramilitary forces without structural reforms could end up being counterproductive. The most important links in the internal security chain are the beat constable, the local police station and the deputy superintendent of police. Policing is a state subject. The massive expansion of central para-military forces after 26/11 belies the total refusal of all state governments to implement the Supreme Court-ordered police reforms. Indian states persist with a colonial police structure designed to keep a subject population under the rulers’ thumb. Persuading them to change is hard enough. If a state government comes to believe that it has easy access to large numbers of central forces, it will have fewer incentives to improve its own police force.

The goal of internal security should not be about sending the CRPF (and certainly not the BSF) to Hyderabad. It should be about ensuring that the Andhra Pradesh police can handle the task without outside help. [DNA]

2 thoughts on “Reforming the home ministry’s troops”

  1. we have come to a situation where now we have three almost equal sized organisations, the army, the paramilitary and the civil police.

    as rightly pointed out the civil police is the best instrument to sort out the local problems. one because they have stake in local issues, and two because of social linkages they are more likely to resort to peaceful means of conflict management than just using brute force, as the other two are more likely to adopt.
    unfortunately the civil police is the poorest of the three cousins and the most neglected one. it does not get any share of the central budget, and even for the states it is a low priority organisation. hence, while army spends close to 35000 cr on R&D annually, police about 5.

    while the paramilitary forces have unique identities and roles, more so after the GOM recommendations post kargil, the forces are being allowed to take part in internal security duties in support of what would one presume to be CRPF domain, essentially for two reasons: to expose them to active insurgencies for better skills and training, and to allow them to experience different working conditions. otherwise an ITBP personnel would typically spend most of his active life above 4000 mts and without experiencing a single event of confrontation.

    wish as a country we realise the importance of a better trained and equipped civil police.

Comments are closed.