Do IPS Officers Deserve to Head Paramilitary Forces?

Senior IPS officers have never added value to the functioning of the paramilitary forces, casting doubts on the very wisdom of deputing them therein.

Many senior IPS (Indian Police Service) officers claim that their role in the paramilitary forces (now called Central Armed Police Forces or CAPFs) is to provide ‘leadership’. The question is, have they ever made any unique contributions or ‘value additions’ to it in any way?

Combating insurgencies, terrorists and enemy soldiers are the biggest professional challenges before the CAPFs. What exactly has been the contribution of IPS officers in the techniques of combat, equipment, and training standards that could result in better performances?

The answer is nothing.

Whatever little they have introduced has led to operational failure and a colossal waste of public money. A classic example is the acquisition of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), ranging from the DRDO Netra to the Israeli Heron. The Heron UAV, costing about Rs 72 crore a piece, is designed primarily for strategic reconnaissance and surveillance, not for spotting a Naxal in a jungle.

Most importantly, the optical cameras of any UAV cannot see through the canopy of vegetation in thick jungles. That is why, even after a decade of using them and the country becoming poorer by crores, the UAVs have not helped in tracking Naxals.

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Perhaps inspired by Hollywood films and stories of the US Navy Seals, they sought to use Malinois dogs for counterinsurgency operations, deviating from the dogs’ traditional role in sniffing and tracking. After ‘wasting’ more than 700 dogs and millions of rupees for nearly a decade, no single Naxal hideout has been sniffed out by these poor dogs. The only thing the dogs do is to present bouquets to VIPs during functions. 

Their ‘notes on visits’ or ‘tour notes’, which they write on visiting field formations expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the senior IPS officers in a most eloquent manner. There is not a single original professional contribution in them. They are the most trite, most superficial observations made to make trips to field locations ‘official’.

One man, upon visiting a post, used to go straight to the toilets to check their cleanliness! Yet another man believed that ducks could clean all liquid sewage waste and insisted on raising ducks in the camps! One man, whose wife accompanied him on all tours, liked to comment on the gadgets in the women’s parlour. He also said that the canteen must have trolleys.

Yet another man noted that office rooms were too small, forgetting that he himself had approved the design. 

Whenever they venture to comment on professional matters, hilarity ensues! One man insisted on ‘winning over’ the local ‘hostile youth’ through a cricket tournament with prize money! Another man advised to encourage them to pursue their education instead!

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A profound piece of wisdom was to integrate technological devices in the system — almost as if without this advice, no one would have ever known that technological devices even existed! One man advised to add bamboos in the fence as a ‘force multiplier’.

Generally, they all refuse to acknowledge that corruption is the source of all evils, especially on the Bangladesh border. However, one man had advised to make video recording of smuggling to help police secure convictions. In other words, if a crime was taking place, police must record it first to secure conviction, rather than prevent it.

One man blamed the food of the jawans for their cardiac problems and lamented they were not doing enough physical training. Fact is the government has elaborately prescribed the daily ration scales of each item and the men cannot change it. Other officers derided PT and replaced it with yoga.

One clever man said that we must adopt new tactics—what tactics, obviously no one knows! When casualties take place, they blame the men for not following the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). No one knows what a counter-ambush drill is and why it should be a drill. One can lay ambushes in nearly two dozen ways and there is no standard response for all of them. 

The list is only illustrative and not exhaustive. The taxpayers do not pay to keep three-star IPS officers at the helm so that they can keep mouthing such inanities. 

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The notion that certain high-level posts in the CAPFs are ‘reserved’ for the IPS has no basis. Even in its last order on the subject on October 18, 2019, the Supreme Court had clearly said that it had not commented on the right of IPS officers’ deputations, as it was not the issue before it.

Historically, the scheme of the All-India Services under Article 312 of the constitution has provided that they would, by default, be allotted to various states but they would also be eligible to take up posts in the Union in matters of common interest. The scheme never implied that they were such ‘infallible master keys’ that they could be used for anything, including highly specialised jobs.

Even the IPS Cadre Rules speak only of ‘a post under the Central government’. This does not translate into a ‘right’ to the top posts in the CAPFs. The plea of IPS officers doing a better job of coordination and liaison with the state governments is ridiculous— in that case, they should join as liaison officers instead!

Their ‘feudalism’ could have been tolerated, had the IPS officers ‘proved’ their ‘inherent superiority’ by professional excellence. Their curriculum in the National Police Academy does not matter; the record of delivery by those hundreds of IPS officers who have served in the CAPFs matters.

The record, as we saw, has been abysmal. The matter therefore needs a serious rethink by the government and failing that, by the Supreme Court.

Dr. N.C. Asthana, a retired IPS officer, has been DGP Kerala and a long-time ADG CRPF and BSF. Of his 46 books, eight are on counterinsurgency operations and the science of combat. Views are personal.