September 30, 2022

Policing the Army – Part I

The overriding irony is that the government is doing everything not only to bring police forces at par with the military but placing the military below police forces; perceived another avenue to enlarge their vote banks.

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

Few years ago, there was a high-level discussion to examine whether the Army should be equipped with non-lethal weapons (NLWs) for crowd control. Stone pelting of army columns had become routine in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), fully backed by local politicians. The Union Ministers remained ambivalent calculating their votes, bureaucrats enjoyed Army’s predicament and the judiciary ‘adjusted’ to the political environment. The then Army Chief categorically stated that crowd control is the job of police forces, ruled out Army being equipped with NLWs and was firm that the Army must retain its distinct character of meaning business.

The procedure of yore was that whenever states requested Army columns in ‘aid to civil authority’, they had to pay for the services to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) albeit though simple book debit. This procedure was quietly brushed under the carpet because questions could be raised if enormity of such expenditure became public especially with adequate police forces available to the state (s) concerned.

The judiciary stopped asking how long a state/ region will continue to be declared “disturbed” and why the cumulative numbers of police and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) exceeding the Army strength cannot handle disturbances. Judiciary also is mute to the so-called anti-defection law which permits politicians easy defection or being ‘bought’. The current slogan of no “tarikh pe tarikh” doesn’t apply to OROP because armed forces are easy target. And when it comes to reviving Armed Forces Tribunals non-operational for years, judiciary says “government is not listening to us”.   

Women were already getting permanent commission through Officers Training Academy (OTA) and MoD could have ordered women entry into National Defence Academy (NDA). But someone may’ve asked why government couldn’t bridge 8,000 officer shortages and disclosed how many cadets left NDA ‘after’ joining over past five years. So judiciary was ‘nudged’ for gender equality, which was apparent with NDA ordered to add two more wings ‘before’ the judiciary ruling. Next agenda ‘through’ the judiciary could well be reservation and OBC quota in the Armed Forces – close to the 2024 general elections?

The influx of lawmakers with fake degrees and multiple criminal charges led to employment of the Army as ‘first’ respondents to rioting and arson. With police forces wearing the same badges of rank and combat uniforms, Army columns carried placards reading ‘ARMY’ – spectacle nowhere else in the world. During the last Jat agitation in Haryana, police forces ran away instead of confronting the mobs. DGPs and ADGs were nowhere to be seen. So, Army was called in.   

With police forces wearing the same badges of rank and combat uniforms, Army columns carried placards reading ‘ARMY’ – spectacle nowhere else in the world. During the last Jat agitation in Haryana, police forces ran away instead of confronting the mobs. DGPs and ADGs were nowhere to be seen. So, Army was called in.   

Decades ago, creation of the police post of DIG (Sandalwood) in the South attracted dismay though it was more to oversee sandalwood smuggling rather than countering it. Not many know how Veerappan was ‘forced’ into becoming a brigand, how thousands of tonnes of sandalwood was smuggled out by the police for politicians and how Veerappan was killed when he could not be used anymore because his failing eyesight wouldn’t improve despite treatment organised for him.

Police reforms have been pending since long but successive governments had other priorities that needed to be addressed. Intelligence agencies are manned by police and politicians-bureaucrats have thousands of skeletons. Note the recent order that if former officials disclose secrets, their pensions can be stopped. This obviously is not about endangering national security for which legal action can be taken, but to keep the ‘skeletons’ under wraps.

Governments found it best to load police forces with so many ranks, pays and perks that they remain loyal and part of the deep state, added advantage being pockets remain full and overflowing. Chief Justice of India says, “Police forces who join hands with government and make money illegally have to face consequences after the change in ruling dispensation. Such cops must not be protected and rather they should be jailed.”

Doesn’t this mean is that if the ruling dispensation does not change for lack of opposition, then corruption will continue unabated? But what about politicians and bureaucrats who want the police to deliver the moneybags? Besides, smart ones will simply defect to the ruling dispensation. Parambir Singh is tip of the iceberg, who too has escaped despite lookout notices. So how many policemen would be punished? And what for example happens to ACP Sujata Patil of Meghwadi division, Jogeshwari East, Mumbai caught red handed taking bribe of Rs. 40,000 (though demanded Rs one lakh) on October 8 for registering a complaint – just a transfer isn’t it?

Today we are in another unique situation nowhere else in the world, as highlighted by a veteran-scholar:

  • We have 400 plus police officers wearing Lieutenant General’s rank compared to only 83 Lieutenant Generals in the 1.3 million strong Army.
  • Out of the over 400 DGPs and ADGs, 40 plus are drawing salary equivalent of Army Commander from 25 years of service till they retire. Even the DG, NDRF with NDRF having strength less than five infantry battalions draws Army Commander’s salary.
  • Indian Police is the only organisation in the world where police officers wear rank badges of Lieutenant Colonel in only ‘two years’ of service after two years of probation and training. Army officers take 13 years to wear the rank badges of Lieutenant Colonel. Incidentally, the civilian defence officials too have very fast promotions compared to their uniformed counterparts. And we talk of civil-military equivalence!
  • An army officer gets 31,500 for serving in Siachen but a central cadre officer gets 50,000 to 70,000 for serving in ‘so-called’ difficult areas like Shillong, Imphal and Guwahati.

Indian Police is the only organisation in the world where police officers wear rank badges of Lieutenant Colonel in only ‘two years’ of service after two years of probation and training. Army officers take 13 years to wear the rank badges of Lieutenant Colonel. Incidentally, the civilian defence officials too have very fast promotions compared to their uniformed counterparts. And we talk of civil-military equivalence!

Above are only very few examples from a long list. The Seventh (7th) Central Pay Commission (CPC) had asked the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), formerly IDSA, for recommendations. IDSA is a government Think Tank which can be unbiased and open only to limited extent. But the 7th CPC took into account only those recommendations that suited the ‘deep state’.

A soldier defies logic and conventions and risks his life without a written rule saying a soldier is supposed to die while performing his duty. But he does so, prompted by ethos, traditions and character and knowing he is the last bastion and pillar which the nation depends upon – if he fails the nation will fail.

Unfortunately over a period of time the soldiers’ elitism has been under attack. He is repeatedly told he is a government servant and that too semi skilled; whereas soldering is most complex, technical and skilful job which is unparalleled. Some politicians have gone on record to say that soldiers joining the Army are “meant to die”. Another clown says, “Police toh election mein bhi madad karti hai, fauj toh is kam bhi nahin aati.”

But why should the police not enjoy the environment when the Deputy Commissioners and Sub Divisional Magistrates hide from the scenes of action they are needed in? Take for example the Uttarakhand Disaster Relief Operations where a veteran-scholar witnessed the following:

  • The three concerned DCs were literally not available during the critical days – same was the case with SDMs and Tehsildars.
  • The SDM deputed to go to Kedarnath emerged only after the relief operations by the Army had been in full swing for five days.
  • The DC parked himself inside the Joshimath camp so that the public couldn’t approach him.
  • When the DC was forced to go and see the condition, he did not get down from the helicopter fearing stranded pilgrims would not let him take off easily.
  • DC Uttarkashi did not feel safe to visit and see conditions of pilgrims at Gangotri and Harsil.
  • Pilgrims kept asking “where is the administration, if the Army has to do everything why is government spending national wealth on them?”

The reason of such performance is simple – our political class is hostage to the bureaucrats for well known reasons. That is why SDM, Karnal recently caught on camera ordering police to “break the heads” of protesting farmers was merely shifted as additional secretary of the Citizen Resources Information Department at Chandigarh – dream project of the Chief Minister.

Delhi Police Commissioner says criminals operating from city jails are involved in criminal conspiracies. He wouldn’t say why inmates are not searched to deny weapons, money, mobiles and communication equipment inside and that this is happening because of the police-politico-mafia nexus.

The overriding irony is that the government is doing everything not only to bring police forces at par with the military but placing the military below police forces; perceived another avenue to enlarge their vote banks. As to respecting armed forces, Texas Guinan, 19th century American businessman had said, “A politician is a fellow who will lay down your life for his country.”

The author is a veteran of Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

To be continued….

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