- Manpower. There should be no direct recruitment to ISF. The complete manpower should consist only of ex-servicemen. As a matter of policy, no one other than an ex-serviceman should be inducted in this force to ensure that it develops a military-like ethos without any dilution. Short Service Commission (SSC) officers, after completing their tenure with the army could be offered absorption into ISF. To man senior ranks initially, suitable officers could also be taken on permanent secondment from the army. Once the initial inductees rise in ranks, they should man the complete structure. As regards the other ranks, medically fit personnel after the completion of their tenure of duty with the army, should be offered absorption on analogous posts in ISF with full protection of pay fixed in the pay band and the grade pay. However, military personnel should have the option to decline lateral shift to ISF and retire with standard pensionary benefits.
ISF would need no training facilities of its own. Induction of fully trained soldiers would obviate need to impart recruits training.
- Training. ISF would need no training facilities of its own. Induction of fully trained soldiers would obviate need to impart recruits’ training. Further, it should have arrangements for subscribing to vacancies on various courses run by the military.
- Size and Structure. To start with ISF should consist of six battalions, grouped under two sector headquarters. Organisation structure should be modular and platoon-centric.
Skeptics and their Likely Reservations
Although the suggested proposal cannot be faulted on any legitimate grounds, skeptics would certainly raise subjective questions. Clarifications to some of the major anticipated reservations are as follows:-
- With existing abundance of central police forces, ISF would be a wasteful duplication.
ISF will be a paramilitary force, first of its kind in the country and not duplicating existing police forces. Two points need to be borne in mind. First, as stated earlier, real strength of a fighting force lies in the development of correct ethos and mindsets. Once ingrained, it becomes well nigh impossible to modify them. A police force cannot be converted into a paramilitary force simply by extra training and equipment – normal police functioning and counter-insurgency operations require totally dissimilar attributes. Secondly, once ISF is well established and relieves CRPF of counter-insurgency operations, the strength of CRPF can be correspondingly reduced in a calibrated manner – by reducing intake and not retrenchment.
- Age profile of ISF will be hit adversely by the lateral shift.
Presently the average age of recruitment in the army is 19 years while in central police forces personnel up to the age of 26 years are recruited and thereafter trained for at least one year. If the army soldiers are laterally shifted after seven years in the services, average age of fully trained inductees will be 26 years. As such, the age profile of ISF will remain totally unaffected.
- Army personnel are trained to kill while in internal security duties considerable restraint has to be exercised.
Army personnel are highly disciplined. Since Independence, the army is increasingly involved in counter-insurgency operations as also rendering aid to the civil authority in the maintenance of law and order. Its record has been exemplary. Soldiers are trained to use minimum force and act in good faith. Therefore, it is totally incorrect to say that soldiers are only trained to kill. In any case, fighting armed insurgents requires use of considerable force, much beyond the capability of regular police forces.
- Side-stepping would curtail employment opportunities for new entrants.
Through lateral move to ISF, army retirees would get gainful employment up to 60 years of age. Therefore, no real loss in employment opportunities will occur.
Presently, soldiers retire from the army after completing a maximum of 17 years of service. Another employment has to be found for them. Through lateral move to ISF, army retirees would get gainful employment up to 60 years of age. Therefore, no real loss in employment opportunities will occur. It is just that employment would be provided to ex-servicemen rather than raw personnel.
Incidentally, CRPF issued a notification on 05 Apr 2010, offering contractual engagement to 1950 ex-servicemen of age less than 40 years in the post of constables for a period of 5 years (extendable to 7 years).
Benefits of the Suggested Proposal
Currently, the army is facing a shortage of officers close to 24 percent of its authorised strength. Due to steep pyramid-like hierarchical structure, the only solution lies in making SSC attractive. Presently, insecurity about future prospects deters many youth from applying for SSC. They fear that failure to get Permanent Commission will make them jobless in the prime of their lives with full family responsibilities to boot. As financial remunerations and hand-shake packages can never compensate for uncertain future, youth has to be assured of a life time career to be motivated to opt for SSC. Lateral shift to ISF will provide a highly attractive avenue. It would also help keep the age profile of the defence forces young.
During times of war, ISF units could be put under army formations to control internal situation and secure lines of communications.
Approximately 40,000 young, well trained and physically fit soldiers are released from the defence forces every year. This highly disciplined and trained pool of manpower is lost to the country without being put to any productive use. ISF will get trained manpower with rich experience in anti-terrorist and counterinsurgency duties. Further, as the trained manpower of the defence forces will remain engaged in a life time employment, no subversive elements will be able to misguide them for anti-social activities.
The pension bill of the Government will get significantly curtailed as pension will be due to the retiring servicemen only after 30/33 years of service as against 17 years of service at present. Additionally, ISF would save on recruitment and training costs of personnel. SPC had also recommended similar lateral movement to CPO.
During times of war, ISF units could be put under army formations to control internal situation and secure lines of communications. Thus, India’s war effort would get augmented.
In utter disregard to their safety, it has inducted ill-equipped and inadequately trained CRPF forces to battle Naxalites, making them easy fodder for the elusive insurgents.
The Government will do well to learn from the declaration made by the US Secretary of Defence Robert M Gates at the Naval Academy in April 2010. He pledged, “And when I send you in harm’s way, as I will, I will do everything in my power to see that you have what you need to accomplish your mission – and come home safely”. Contrast the above pledge with the attitude of the Indian Government. In utter disregard to their safety, it has inducted ill-equipped and inadequately trained CRPF forces to battle Naxalites, making them easy fodder for the elusive insurgents. It is a grave and criminal dereliction of duty, grossly unfair to CRPF personnel and their hapless families.
As seen above, embroilment of the army in counter-Naxalite operations is the worst thing that can happen to the country. Creation of ISF is an extremely viable scheme that harnesses the expertise and experience of ex-servicemen. It will not only result in substantial financial savings to the Government but will also guarantee life time employment to scores of ex-service personnel. Therefore, it should be implemented in its entirety without any delay.
A word of caution would not be out of place here. The fundamental strength of ISF would lie in its ex-servicemen character and it should not be diluted. Authorities must resist temptation to use higher appointments in ISF to park police officers. ISF should not go National Security Guard way, wherein the real punch is provided by the military component but ironically, the Director General is a police officer.