The recent upsurge in violence in Haryana had the army deployed in panic by the State Government, even before it had run out of Central resources. It ensured an early return to normalcy. The police and other Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) were a dismal failure. Anibhav Kumar, an IPS officer on deputation with CAPFs, wrote in the Indian Express of 31st Aug, that ‘the decision to permit a large crowd to assemble and whether preventive measures are to be taken or whether punitive response can take place only after violence has happened is in the hands of the political executive and not the chief secretary or the DGP.’ Thus, the blame was shifted to the political class by law enforcing agencies.
He went on to add that over the years, states of India have simply not invested enough in the police, resulting in the CAPFs and the army being called in for anything beyond normal law and order. Julio Ribeiro in his commentary in the same newspaper on 18 Sept stated’there was a time when politicians were wary of expecting senior police officers to blindly toe their line’. He added that presently politicians of all parties treat the police and bureaucracy as private fiefdoms. Haryana is clearly an example. In Sirsa where the main dera of the godman was located, the army was requisitioned and conducting flag marches even before the police entered to search the dera. This ensured the situation remained under control.
The army is visible during natural calamities as assisting the civil administration is its secondary role. In Mumbai, the navy set up canteens to support commuters impacted by the floods. Whenever the going becomes tough in Darjeeling, the army is out on the streets, restoring confidence in the public.It was visible in the streets of Darjeeling even during the blockade, when movement of all others was restricted.
All these are not its primary tasks, but considering other central forces capabilities, are slowly becoming its important tasks.The army of the nation is there with its people, providing relief in calamities, restoring confidence when the situation gets difficult and working hard to bring normalcy in troubled regions. It is possibly the most visible force and almost the first to be deployed, when the national public faces difficulties.
This is not the only organization at the Central level which wears a uniform and has been created to function as a team to provide results. There are a host of others, yet somewhere down the line, states have begun preferring army assistance to NDRF during times of calamities and army deployment simultaneous to CAPFs, during periods of strife and riots.
For a nation, this is a matter of concern, as when considering the army strength physically available, after removing those deployed permanently for operations along active borders, CAPF strength would be much more.Further, the army is the instrument of last resort and should be inducted, only when the others have been employed and been ineffective. This was the norm till possibly a decade ago, but the trend is changing to involve the army as early as possible.
In most western nations, the army is only deployed after a state of emergency is declared and that also by the head of the state. Forces equivalent to CAPF can be moved much faster and by local authorities. As an example, the national guard can be requested by states in the US, but the army is only deployed, post the President declaring a state of emergency. In France and Belgium, the army was deployed on the streets only after the President declared a state of emergency, post large scale terror strikes.
India has adopted British era regulations, where they deployed the army at the first instance, solely to control the freedom movement, when it felt the police were incapable. There were no CAPFs then. Times have changed, yet we continue to follow the old pattern. If this continues as the present trend, then as a nation we need to introspect and reassess the strength, role and tasking of the multitude of forces which the state has created and continues to create, but are found ineffective when employed. Further, over deployment of the army would reduce its impact in the eyes of the masses, as has been witnessed in Kashmir and the North-Eastern militancy affected states.
The men who form a part of this multitude of organizations come from the same stock as the army and are equally well equipped for their envisaged roles and tasks. Hence, there could be just two to three major shortcomings, when compared to the army, which separates their effectiveness. The first is the level and quality of training imparted during their initial phase and subsequently in establishments. The army, when not deployed operationally, is always in the training mode, preparing for operations and envisaged tasks, firm in the belief that ‘the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war’. The same may not be said about other central forces.
Secondly, is motivation of the rank and file. Motivation flows from making every individual feel he is an important part of the organization, rather than just a member. It is this motivation, which has compelled soldiers to lay down what is considered most precious, their lives, solely for the nation. There are numerous instances in the history of our country, where soldiers have fought to ‘last man, last round’, knowing death was imminent, but holding onto their position was equally important. On the contrary, police and other CAPFs have failed to contain violence, despite large presence, Panchkula being the latest.
The above two shortcomings only flow from the level of leadership which an organization has. The Sukma encounter in Chhattisgarh in Apr this year was a classic example of poor leadership. A column of seventy-four soldiers leaving a camp, without an officer at the head, unbriefed and despatched on a task, considered routine, was laxity. The CAPFs are deployed by the state police, when requested for, whose quality of leadership itself has remained a question mark as recent violence in Haryana and earlier examples have indicated.
The army is the reverse. Every column is led by an officer. The high ratio of officer verses soldier casualties, indicates that officers lead from the front. It is only when officers and men, live, train and operate together, sharing risks and dangers, does faith and trust evolve. Once troops have faith in their leadership, would officers be able to influence, motivate and prepare their command for their role and tasks.
Hence, the failure of the CAPFs is not because they come from Mars, but because there is a major gap in their manner of functioning, basically the quality of leadership, which impacts training, morale and efficiency. The situation is even worse where state police are concerned. The gap between the IPS officer cadre and the men is immense. Police personnel are left to handle the situation, while the officer is located away in HQs or control rooms, thus lack of communication. Lack of training, integration and motivation is clearly evident, where ever they are deployed.
Police modernization has remained a low priority for State Governments. Funds allocated have not been correctly implemented. The Minister of state for home, Kiren Rijiju, stated in Feb this year, that “We really need to update our policing system. I am admitting to the fact, that we are not yet upto the mark in terms of modernization of our police forces.”
Recently, the Government announced special funds for state police modernization. Equipment may flow, but motivation and training of all personnel, enhancing leadership qualities within the officer cadre and closer coordination at all levels also needs to be reviewed and inculcated. The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy should be the nodal centre for reinventing police leadership and morality, thus creating an environment wherein the officers begin considering the nation first, rather than political masters.
The armed forces are the instrument of last resort and should be treated as such. Employing them at the first stage itself defeats the very purpose of creating such a mass of CAPFs. As an immediate measure, the Government should consider recruiting army jawans who retire early and inducting army officers on deputation, even at junior levels in police and CAPFs, to change their working environment.
(The author is a retired Major General of the Indian Army)