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Organised by School of Law, Rights and Constitutional Governance, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
The face of security and safety on the streets of Kashmir, in the jungles of central India and the mountains of the Northeast, is the officials of the Central Reserve Police Force. Posted in “disturbed areas” for more than three years at a stretch, they spend their time in bunkers in a hostile environment. Every day is a challenge as they struggle to keep their sanity and guard democratic principles. Everyone who approaches them is a potential adversary. It could be a stone thrower in the Valley, an armed Maoist in Chhattisgarh. Nameless shadows chase them during the night; armed insurgents stalk them through the day. For CRPF officials, life has become almost a continuous engagement with India’s uprisings. In the meanwhile, the officials are hostage to multiple problems: own inadequate training, absent intelligence, determined adversaries, leadership crisis and the failures of the political class.
From a motley force called the Crown Representatives Police whose job it was in British times to protect VIPs, the force has now come to symbolize India’s struggle with a million uprisings. The situation is unprecedented for the force. It is extensively deployed in all three major theatres of internal struggle in India the valley, the Red Corridor and the Northeast. The CRPF is no longer a police force. It has become India’s main counter-insurgency force. By its original mandate, the CRPF was meant to be a reserve force. It was meant to assist states and union territories in police operations and to contain insurgency. Over the years, the CRPF has taken on riot control, crowd control and election duty and lots more. Meanwhile, it has become India’s primary counter-insurgency force, except in areas where the army and other paramilitary forces are deployed.
The issue of a crisis in CRPF officer’s leadership becomes a matter of public debate whenever there are major incidents involving breakdown of law and order or violation of human rights of marginalised sections and citizens at large. The recent ambush in Naxal affected areas raises some very disturbing questions not only about the status of operations against the Maoists but also about the CRPF leadership and training. It is a well- known fact that irregular warfare, of which counter insurgency operations are a part, are extremely hazardous and tedious to conduct because it is difficult to distinguish friend and foe and the duration of the campaign can be measured in years, if not decades. There are numerous examples where even the best led troops of the highest quality have committed errors of judgment and suffered the consequences. However when such errors occur with monotonous regularity they cannot just be attributed to incompetent junior leadership, poor training and lack of combat experience or motivation. The reasons are bound to be much more complex and systemic.
At such times, charges are made that the system for producing top leaders is too closed, with too few – and arguably too similar, candidates applying for the top jobs. The overt challenges before the police leadership are symptomatic of a deep - seated malaise and indicative of a sweeping generalisation of the expectations of safety and security in the country.
One of the principal issues relates to the operational autonomy of force, which makes it difficult to ensure impartial action and fair play during times when such behavior is expected of them. The lack of operational autonomy impedes force efficiency and impacts the quality of CRPF leadership. Security and safety can never be wholly divorced from politics but recent events have shown how easily a situation can develop into a toxic mix of politics, power and public scape-goating. In this light, it is clear that CRPF will be unable to deliver 'neutral practice', thus impacting on force accountability towards the citizenry in a democratic polity.
Some of the challenges that the CRPF face today can be categorized at two levels - thematically and in terms of organisational issues. Thematically, the challenges pertain to responding to emerging conflicts plaguing contemporary society, for example, naxalism, terrorism, communalism, ethnic violence, insurgency, riots etc. At the organisational level, some of the tensions include those arising from the structural divide between the state cadre officials and IPS, CRPF accountability to the public and political control of leadership, top-down communication and its impact on innovative ideas and CRPF officials morale, and an organisational structure built by the colonial masters to rule and the dictates of a democratic State.
In this context, the question that should be asked is not whether there are problems of CRPF leadership, but whether and to what extent these problems are systemic. Despite current rhetoric, many stakeholders engaging with the system are of the opinion that as with any organisation, the issue of individual performance at the top leadership level needs to be examined. They suggest that while there is evidence that CRPF handles some of the challenges it is confronted with satisfactorily; many a time, there is tremendous scope for improvement. The list of problems in CRPF is quite long – chaotic deployment, unregulated expansion, infrastructural deficiencies, shortages of transport and arms and ammunition, poor personnel management, ineffective coordination between the state police and the CAPF leadership, absence of a robust in-house grievance redressal mechanism, lack of promotional prospects for the constabulary and the direct recruit officers, the structural and psychological disconnect between the cutting edge constabulary and the ones who are at the top of the pyramid, inordinate delays in procurement of combat-ready equipment and inadequate medical facilities. It is time to institute the reforms and cadre-based assessment to ensure that the force gets the best available leaders.
The issue of training of CRPF officers at the cutting edge and top levels is also an important one. The current status of training and its impact needs examination and analysis. The need of the hour is to put into place a broad-based strategic training model, exposing leaders to current academic debates in economics, political science, sociology, human rights, organisational theory and management, and international security developments.
As for the response to the issues, there is a need to review whether the force is structurally suited to address the issues confronting them. It needs to be emphasised here that it takes time to move from essentially "normal" law and order situation to the large-scale deployments required to deal with the extraordinarily dynamic, widespread and potentially violent situations of any type. In these circumstances the test of leadership is how quickly it adapts to the new circumstances and how effectively the leadership protects human rights in the crisis situations. The recent events in the country illustrate that the force have to deal with a range of social, legal and organisationalissues of great complexity and sensitivity and hence require a lens to buffer their current leadership strategies and capacities.
This course will create a platform for the participants to discuss and debate some of the issues and aspects highlighted above. It will inform and sensitise them to the current trends and best practices in terms of responding to the challenges before the CRPF leadership in a democratic context.
The objectives of the course are as follows:
About the participants
The VIC is meant for the senior CRPF officials Commandant to ADG level having minimum experience of six year and more in service are being encouraged to take part in the one-week residential training on ‘Leadership Profile'. Around 25 officers would be attend the course in one batch.
Methodology for VIC
The course will be conducted and delivered by a team of resource persons who will be a mix of academicians, field practitioners and experienced personnel from TISS in various domain. The course is designed keeping in mind a good mix of classroom inputs with group discussions, space for sharing of experiences, open discussions and interaction with students, faculty and practitioners. There may be group activities, practical sessions, documentary screening and appreciation, demos, exercises, critical analysis and interactions, field visits, dialogue with leading experts and many more mode of conduction is the uniqueness of this course.
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