Recently, the case of Assam Rifles regarding the scrapping or retention of the dual control structure for Assam Rifles (which comes under both the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence) has went to the Delhi High Court.
What is ‘Assam Rifles’?
- Assam Rifles is one of the six central armed police forces (CAPFs) under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The other forces being the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
- It is tasked with the maintenance of law and order in the North East along with the Indian Army and also guards the Indo-Myanmar border in the region.
- It has a sanctioned strength of over 63,000 personnel and has 46 battalions apart from administrative and training staff.
- It is the only paramilitary force with a dual control structure. While the administrative control of the force is with the MHA, its operational control is with the Indian Army, which is under the MoD.
- This means that salaries and infrastructure for the force is provided by the MHA, but the deployment, posting, transfer and deputation of the personnel is decided by the Army. All its senior ranks, from DG to IG and sector headquarters, are manned by officers from the Army. The force is commanded by Lieutenant General from the Indian Army.
- The force is the only central paramilitary force (CPMF) in real sense as its operational duties and regimentation are on the lines of the Indian Army. However, its recruitment, perks, promotion of its personnel and retirement policies are governed according to the rules framed by the MHA for CAPFs.
What is the issue?
- Dual-control has created two sets of demands from both within the Assam rifles and by MoD and MHA for singular control over the force by one ministry.
- A large section within the force wants to be under the administrative control of the MoD, as that would mean better perks and retirement benefits which are far higher compared to CAPFs under MHA. However, Army personnel also retire early, at 35, while the retirement age in CAPF is 60 years.
- Also, CAPF officers have recently been granted non-functional financial upgradation (NFFU) to at least financially address the issue of stagnation in their careers due to lack of avenues for promotion. But Army personnel also get one-rank-one-pension which is not available to CAPFs.
- Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force raised way back in 1835 in British India with just 750 men. Since then it has gone on to fight in two World Wars, the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and used as an anti-insurgency force against militant groups in the North East.
- Raised as a militia to protect British tea estates and its settlements from the raids of the NE tribes, the force was first known as Cachar Levy. It was reorganised later as Assam Frontier Force as its role was expanded to conduct punitive operations beyond Assam borders.