Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF): Mandate, Role and Challenges.

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Context: The Union Home Ministry has fixed the retirement age of all Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel at 60 years. The Rajya Sabha committee has objected to the overuse of the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) for rigorous internal security and election-related duties to the extent that even the reserved battalions are deployed not giving them enough time for rest and recuperation.


  • The state police force and its politicisation and, to an extent, criminalisation through a nexus with corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, and the mafia has been causing havoc in the management of internal security.
  • And now, we have disturbing news from the CAPF, whose personnel have vented their grievances through social media. The rumblings have been there for quite some time.
  • Many commissions, including the National Police Commission, have drawn attention to the sordid state of affairs, but without any significant impact on the powers that be.
  • The Supreme Court issued a set of directions in 2006 and has been trying to nudge the states — but with very little effect. As a consequence, things are going from bad to worse.

What constitutes Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)?

  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to the uniform nomenclature of five security forces in India under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • They are:
    • Assam Rifles (AR)
    • Border Security Force (BSF)
    • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)
    • Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)
    • Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)
    • National Security Guard (NSG)
    • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)
  • Each of the seven has its own cadre of officers, but they are headed by officers of the Indian Police Service.

Assam Rifles (AR):

  • The Assam Rifles came into being in 1835, as a militia called the ‘Cachar Levy’, to primarily protect British Tea estates and their settlements against tribal raids.
  • This Force significantly contributed to opening the region to administration and commerce and over time they came to be known as the “right arm of the civil and left arm of the military”.
  • The Post-Independence role of the Assam Rifles continued to evolve ranging from conventional combat roles during Sino-India War 1962, operating in a foreign land as part of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka in 1987 (Op Pawan), to peacekeeping role in the North-Eastern areas of India.

Border Security Force (BSF):

  • BSF is a Border Guarding Force of India. Established on December 1, 1965, it is a paramilitary force charged with guarding India's land borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • The BSF has air wing, marine wing, an artillery regiment, and commando units. It currently stands as the world's largest border guarding force. BSF has been termed as the First Line of Defence of Indian Territories.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF):

  • The CISF came into existence in 1969 with a modest beginning, having three battalions, to provide integrated security cover to the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs).
  • With globalization and liberalization of the economy, CISF is no longer a PSU-centric organization. Instead, it has become a premier multi-skilled security agency of the country, mandated to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas.
  • CISF is currently providing security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and ever heritage monuments.
  • Among the important responsibilities recently entrusted to the CISF are the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, VIP Security, Disaster Management and establishment of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) of the UN at Haiti.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF):

  • The Central Reserve Police Force came into existence as Crown Representative’s Police on 27th July 1939. It became the Central Reserve Police Force on the enactment of the CRPF Act on 28th December 1949.
  • The mission of the Central Reserve Police Force is to enable the government to maintain Rule of Law, Public Order and Internal Security effectively and efficiently, to Preserve National Integrity and Promote Social Harmony and Development by upholding the supremacy of the Constitution.
  • Broad duties being performed by the CRPF are:
    • Crowd control
    • Riot control
    • Counter Militancy / Insurgency operations.
    • Dealing with Left Wing Extremism
    • Overall coordination of large scale security arrangement especially with regard to elections in disturbed areas.
    • Fighting enemy in the event of War.
    • Participating in UN peacekeeping Mission as per Govt. policy.
    • Rescue and Relief operations at the time of Natural Calamities and disasters

Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP):

  • ITBP was raised on 24 Oct 1962.
  • Presently, ITBP is deployed on border guarding duties from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh covering 3488 km of Indo-China Border and manning Border Outposts on altitudes ranging from 9000’ to 18700’ in the Western, Middle and Eastern sectors of the Indo-China Border.
  • ITBP is a specialized mountain force and most of the officers and men are professionally trained mountaineers and skiers.
  • Being the first responder for natural disasters, ITBP has been carrying out numerous rescue and relief operations across the country.

National Security Guard (NSG):

  • The National Security Guard (NSG) is a counter-terrorism unit.
  • It was raised in 1984, following Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, “for combating terrorist activities with a view to protecting states against internal disturbances.
  • NSG formally came into being in 1986 by an act of parliament.
  • The basic philosophy of NSG is swift and speedy strikes and immediate withdrawal from the theatre of action.
  • National Security Guard has been given the specific role to handle all facets of terrorism in any part of the country as a Federal Contingency Force.
  • It is a task-oriented Force and has two complementary elements in the form of the Special Action Group (SAG) comprising Army personnel and the Special Ranger Groups (SRG), comprising personnel drawn from the Central Armed Police Forces/State Police Forces.

Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB):

  • The Special Service Bureau (now Sashastra Seema Bal) was thus conceived in November 1962 and eventually created in March 1963.
  • The sole objective of achieving ‘Total security preparedness’ in the remote border areas for performing a ‘stay-behind’ role in the event of a war.
  • SSB is now spread along the International border across Uttarakhand, UP, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
  • SSB’s present charter of duties is to:
    • Safeguard the security of assigned borders of India and promote a sense of security among the people living in border areas.
    • Prevent trans-border crimes, smuggling, and any other illegal activities.
    • Prevent unauthorized entry into or exit from the territory of India.
    • Carry out civic action programme in the area of responsibility.
    • Perform any other duty assigned by the Central Government (SSB is being deployed for Law & Order, Counter Insurgency Operations and Election duty).
International Border Guarded by Number of Companies Deployed
Indo-Pakistan Border Border Security Force (BSF) 411
Indo-Bangladesh Border Border Security Force (BSF) 480
Indo-China Border Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) 136
Indo-Nepal Border Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) 162
Indo-Bhutan Border Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) 97
Indo-Myanmar Border Assam Rifles (AR) 60

Working condition of CAPF personnel:

  • The failure of leadership at different levels was bound to erupt one day. Growing resentment over the allegedly poor quality food is symptomatic, the dissatisfaction runs much deeper.
  • The personnel are not happy with service conditions, which are harsh for some of the CAPFs.
  • Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel have to work in snow-bound areas round the year; there are hardly any peace stations for them.
  • Border Security Force (BSF) personnel have to perform duties in snow-bound areas, in desert tracts, and in jungle terrain, depending on the border they are deployed at.
  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel are over-stretched and on the move most of the time.

Major problems:

  • Unplanned expansion of the forces has made human resource management a stupendous problem.
    • Today, the CRPF has a strength of 240 battalions.
    • More than 20 years ago, it was recorded in a policy document of the home ministry that an open-ended expansion of the Central Armed Police Forces must stop.
    • However, expansion continues unabated, thanks to exaggerated demands from state governments and the inability of the central government to resist those demands.
    • A haphazard expansion of the central forces has also meant, there were deficiencies in infrastructure. There is an acute shortage of housing in the forces. In the CRPF, for example, the level of satisfaction is only 12.5% as against the target of 25%.
  • The deployment statement of the CAPFs is very distressing. :
    • About 95 percent of the force remains deployed throughout the year. This affects both training and the discipline and morale of the forces.
    • The men aren’t even able to avail of their leave, which causes anger and resentment that sometimes erupts in grave incidents of fratricide. An absence of promotional opportunities is also causing frustration in some forces.
  • Growing hiatus between the officers and the men:
    • The kind of fellow feeling, the camaraderie is gradually fading. 
    • The non-gazetted levels today are much more educated than they were in the past. These personnel have higher expectations and their loyalty cannot be taken for granted.
  • Politicisation:
    • It has eroded the chain of command. Senior officers are quite often not able to transfer or punish delinquent junior officers because of their political linkages.
    • The home ministry officers who deal with these problems have no first-hand knowledge of the working conditions of the forces and therefore tend to be insensitive.
  • Code of conduct chain:
    • The Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials which is a UN direction given to all police forces in the world, Article 8 states that in case a person is aggrieved, he can go to the highest authority directly.
    • The internal security totally impinges upon the capabilities of CAPF. It is the job of leadership to address the complaints being made by a Jawan properly.
  • A lot of wastage of manpower:
    • When a State Government is given a CAPF, they like to retain it as long as they can do so due to which other states requiring them are starved of it.
    • The Home Ministry succumbs to the political pressure from a particular state. Home Ministry is least concerned about the problems, needs, and requirements of the Jawans.
    • Some of them work without having a holiday even once in 6 months.
  • Heading the force:
    • Initially, when the BSF was raised, it did not have senior officers of its own cadre. After more than 60 years of its inception, BSF is now matured enough to have its own senior officers.
    • There should be a review to have senior cadre officers to head the post. The roles of all these five forces are different. BSF has to guard the borders, CRPF has to be on internal security duties and ITBP is always on places at high altitudes.
    • Each force must have specialization and the IPS officers can come in at one particular time and at a younger age so that they can be groomed as per the requirements of the force.
  • Promotions:
    • In CAPF as well as in police, there are four levels of entry whereas in the army there are two levels of entry.
    • After every entry, there is a 50 percent promotion from ranks and 50 percent from direct entry. Therefore, there is a feeling among the officers promoted this way that will not be able to match the levels of the officers recruited directly.
    • Hence, the levels of entry have to be at least two as this will improve the quality of leadership with a better confidence level among these people.

Suggestions to cure this:

  • Suggestions have often been given to the home ministry to bring about some kind of rotation in the duties of these personnel, so they have time to refresh themselves and recuperate.
  • However, these ideas did not find favor. No wonder there is considerable attrition within the forces and large numbers go on voluntary retirement after completing the mandatory 20 years of service.

Rajya Sabha Committee Recommendations:

  • To boost the morale of the CAPFs, the committee insisted on limiting the deputation of officers from the IPS and the armed forces to CAPFs at 25% and the CAPFs cadres should be given the opportunity to become the Director-General of respective forces.
  • The committee insisted on paying paramilitary service pay to the CAPF on par with the defense forces personnel.
  • The committee noted that the defense forces personnel are being paid Military Service Pay in view of the risk to life and social and family isolation and argued that the CAPF also deserves similar incentives in the form of Paramilitary Service Pay as they also face similar risks and isolation.
  • Noting the response of the MHA that the 7th Pay Commission and the Committee on Allowance did not agree to such special pay, the committee insisted on doing the needful.
  • Referring to suicides in the CAPFs, the committee urged the Ministry to put in place an institutional mechanism with representatives of the MHA, the Bureau of Police Research and Development, heads of various forces and experts in public health, mental health, psychology and psychiatry to address the issue.

What the government should do?

  • At the state level, there is a shortage of 5,00,000 police personnel. The Centre should work out a formula, in consultation with the state governments, to fill these vacancies so as to lessen their dependence on central forces.
  • In fact, even if these vacancies are filled up, the states would still be short of manpower by international standards. Our effort should be to attain a level of at least 200 policemen per 1,00,000 persons. Presently, the figure stands at 182 on paper and 139 on the ground.
  • The existing grievance redressal mechanism needs to be revisited. It will have to be made more broad-based. More channels need to be opened for grievances to be aired.
  • It will not be possible to impose any kind of ban over the use of social media by personnel. However, rules could be framed and dos and dont’s prescribed for using social media.


  • All is not well and it would not be proper to adopt an ostrich-like policy. The quality of food may be improved today but a comprehensive approach is called for.
  • The government of India would be well advised to set up a high-powered commission to look into the plethora of problems facing the Central Armed Police Forces and suggest long-term solutions for those.

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