From fighting terrorists in Kashmir to guarding VIPs, performing riot control and poll duty, the Central Reserve Police Force performs a range of functions..
The CRPF fields its personnel in the two most stressful outposts manned by a paramilitary force: shoulder to shoulder with India Army jawans "who are responsible for the land borders along the Line of Control with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China " in the hostile terrain of Jammu and Kashmir while leading the charge against deadly and brutal Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) in east and central India with some support from the local police.
With 239 battalions and various other establishments, the CRPF is considered India's largest paramilitary force and has a sanctioned strength of more than three lakh personnel as of 2017.
And yet the force has often complained of step-motherly treatment from the government compared to the Indian Army.
Take for example, the Pulwama investigation. A year has passed since 40 CRPF personnel were killed in an attack in Pulwama but the National Investigation Agency (NIA) is yet to trace the source of explosives used by the car-borne suicide bomber.
A report in The Hindu states that the case is riddled with unanswered questions and loopholes because the intensity of the blast blew apart any tangile evidence that is usually needed to trace back links in such cases, while all accused have been killed. This mean that the leads have gone dead and the kin of Pulwama victims may never get the full story.
Overworked and underpaid
The Ministry of Home Affairs has admitted that CRPF personnel are deployed for prolonged durations, almost 90 percent of the time, in remote/inaccessible/inhospitable areas (LWE, North East and Jammu and Kashmir). CRPF personnel have to work 12 to 14 hours a day without any compensation for working beyond the standard eight hours. More than 80 percent of CRPF personnel cannot avail holidays and Sundays.
And despite serving in such harsh conditions, some are paid as little as Rs 12,000 per month.
As pointed out in a previous article, a significant pay gap exists between the personnel of the CAPF and Indian Army. While the transport allowance (Rs 1,800) and remote hardship allowance (Rs 6,930) are the same for the two forces at the rank of havaldar, the ration money given to a CAPF jawan is taxable but is tax free for an army soldier. The pension a CAPF jawan receives is dependent on the contributions he makes to the pension fund, while army jawans receive OROP (One Rank, One Pension). BSF jawans are also not entitled to House Rent Allowance in their home towns and have much less access to family accommodation as compared to their counterparts in the army.s
Severe staff shortage
According to a report in The Print, Central Armed Police Force's strength in comparison to the army remains at 85 percent, despite these forces being entrusted a wider range of duties than the army.
The CRPF is in fact dealing with massive dearth of resources as its top posts remain vacant while the lower posts suffer high attrition rates.
A parliamentary committee report on Ministry of Home Affairs noted in December 2018 that 17 out of 19 posts, ie, approximately 90 percent of the posts at DIG level are lying vacant in CRPF. The committee also expressed concerns that a huge number of post " around 54,953 in Constable (GD) cadre " are also lying vacant.
The report also talks about high attrition rates as jawans are proceeding on voluntary retirement and resignation due to harsh job conditions and low morale.
"The committee is dismayed to observe that the housing satisfaction level in the CRPF is just 11.83 percent which is the lowest amongst the CAPFs. Even after completion of 12,014 quarters that are under construction, the housing satisfaction level will rise only to 15.77 percent which unfortunately would continue to remain the lowest in all the CAPFs. The committee feels that such a poor level of housing satisfaction level could be one of the major reasons for high attrition rate in the force."
The report also pointed out that the government has admitted that due to short-staffing and various other concerns, the MHA is forced to deploy units that are still under training, which hampers the skill development and training process of the CRPF. The committee strongly advised against this, stating that it could lead to excessive pressure on personnel who have not yet been fully prepared for their responsibilities.
"Moreover, almost 98 percent of training companies remain deployed on various short term law and order assignments across the country. The states remain over dependent on the force for law and order problems, which results in high demand for their deployment due to various reasons. No CRPF battalion is presently designated for the purpose of providing rest and recuperation. This continuous deployment of training companies affects the overall operational efficiency of the force, besides denying troops the much wanted training and rest and recuperation," the report states.
The committee also pointed out massive delays in granting due promotions to CRPF personnel. "The committee feels that not being given adequate career progression opportunities acts as a highly de-motivating factor for the personnel."
"The committee is of the considered view that the CRPF personnel, who are facing excessive stagnation in their career growth, must be provided certain special incentives to keep their morale high"
According to the data provided by MHA, since 2014, more jawans died of heart attack than were killed in action. This indicates that the medical facilities provided to the personnel are neither adequate nor up to the mark. It also signifies stress due to continuous deployment in stressful situations and difficult terrain and irregular eating/sleeping cycles.
As an earlier Firstpost piece points out, the kin of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans killed in Pulwama believe that the government needs to come up with a quantitative policy to end the discrimination against paramilitary forces, especially as they are also given the task of tackling conflict in insurgency-hit areas and all border states.
Thousands of widows of soldiers who served the Central Paramilitary Forces (CPF) are battling tremendous odds to keep their hearths burning. Although the strength of the CPF has risen steadily " so much so that the CRPF today is three lakh-strong " widows of CPF troopers killed in action believe that authorities don't pay as much attention to their needs as they do to address the concerns of widows of the armed forces.
Widows of CPF troops complain that while the insurance cover provided to a paramilitary trooper works out to around Rs 20 lakh, that given to a jawan of the armed forces is around Rs 37.5 lakh. They are also not entitled to many of the benefits extended to army men killed in the field because paramilitary personnel are not accorded the status of a martyr.
Until these changes are made, the foundations of the pillar of India's security system will remain under threat of crumbling.