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Posted at: Jun 20, 2019, 6:39 AM; last updated: Jun 20, 2019, 6:39 AM (IST)

CAPFs’ duties arduous, so must retire at 57

MP Nathanael

MP Nathanael
With 80 per cent of the CRPF battalions deployed in hard areas like the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and in the Left wing extremists-affected states, it is imperative that physical fitness of a high order is maintained by all personnel operating in these places. The duties in these areas are very demanding and energy-sapping.
CAPFs’ duties arduous, so must retire at 57
Fitness must: CAPF men have to fight terror and extremism throughout the year.

MP Nathanael
Former IG, CRPF

Consequent to the Delhi High Court Bench of Justices S Muralidhar and Sanjeev Narula directing the Ministry of Home Affairs to have a uniform retirement age for all central armed police forces in January this year, there has been a flurry of excitement and anxiety, leading to the articulation of differing views among the personnel of the CAPFs. Of the six armed police forces of the CAPFs that comprise the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Forces (BSF), Seema Sashastra Bal (SSB), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Assam Rifles, the last two already have 60 years as the age for retirement on superannuation. The other four retire their personnel at the age of 57 years up to the rank of commandant and 60 years for those of and above the rank of deputy inspector-general of police.

Barring the CRPF, all other forces have expressed their willingness to raise the age bar to 60 years for retirement. The CRPF, however, has averred that status quo be maintained. Listing out various reasons, it emphasised that the retirement age be not meddled with. And it is for sound reasons that the CRPF has stuck to its view.

The delay in taking a decision by the government has put the personnel of the four paramilitary forces as also their headquarters in a quandary. Personnel who were to retire on May 31 continue to be on the strength of these forces as they have been asked to await the final decision of the government, thereby stalling the processing of retirement papers and farewell drills.

Ironically, the Supreme Court recently dismissed the Special Leave Petition (SLP) of the government, stating that such decisions fall in the realm of policy decisions and it was not for the courts to dwell on such issues. With that, the high court verdict falls flat and it is up to the government to settle the issue.

With 80 per cent of the CRPF battalions deployed in hard areas like the Northeast, Jammu and Kashmir and in the Left wing extremists-affected states, it is imperative that physical fitness of a high order is maintained by all personnel operating in these places. The duties in these areas are very demanding and energy-sapping. It speaks volumes of their forbearance that personnel deployed in the North-East were deprived of their rightful entitlement of special duty allowance (SDA) for over 18 years until the apex court intervened in July last year and ordered the payment of the allowance to all personnel deployed in the region, irrespective of the location of their headquarters. On the flimsy ground that the headquarters of these battalions were located outside the north-eastern region, thousands of CRPF personnel were denied this allowance. 

In the Kashmir valley, not only have the personnel to go for road opening patrol duties from the wee hours till late evenings, but also have to deal with stone-pelters almost the whole day. Maintaining law and order in such areas where they are constantly exposed to attacks by terrorists calls for not just stamina, resilience and tolerance under grave provocation but also courage and alertness of a high order. Chasing a terrorist who attempts to attack or flees after attacking the security forces in hot pursuit demands derring-do of a high order, coupled with physical agility that cannot be expected of a person beyond the age of 50, though there can be exceptional cases.

In the Left wing extremists-affected states, when operations are conducted for days at a stretch in extremely hostile conditions, the younger lot may take it in the stride but the grey-haired buddies may find it strenuous to cope up. To add to their woes, their living conditions in this part of the country leave much to be desired. In such regions where they cannot for reasons of hostile environment undergo physical training regularly as is the practice in peace stations, they are prone to falling victim to such ailments as obesity, diabetes and hypertension. 

According to the official figures given out by the CRPF Headquarters, 22,120 personnel are placed in low medical category (LMC), 85 per cent of whom are reported to be suffering from such ailments as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, while the rest are mostly accident cases or those injured in the course of duty or in encounters. There is now a move to ease out all such personnel who are categorised in the lowest medical category of Shape-5 as such personnel are hardly of any utility to the organisation.

Though a comparatively much smaller force, the ITBP has 5,619 LMC cases. Braving the harsh weather at prohibitively high altitudes in Ladakh and beyond, these personnel render a yeoman’s service guarding the borders. 

The large amount of egress from the CRPF during the period from January 2015 to January 2018 speaks volumes of the arduous nature of duties of these personnel. While 780 personnel, including 14 gazetted officers proceeded on voluntary retirement in 2015, the figure shot up to 3,348, including 21 officers, in 2016 and the following year 4,354, including 33 officers, left the force. The figures will not show any downward trend until the living and working conditions are ameliorated drastically.

Not for nothing do the defence services keep their profile young as they need to be constantly ready for war. Those who do not pick up their higher ranks with passing age are weeded out. While the defence forces are engaged in war once in a few decades, the CAPF personnel have to fight the menace of terrorism and extremism throughout the year with little respite. Since over 80 per cent of the personnel of the CRPF are committed to operational duties, it is just about 20 per cent of the overall strength that get to enjoy the luxury of peace postings.

While most personnel would gladly like to proceed on superannuation at 57 years, those who prefer to remain busy can opt for civil jobs, rather than be a liability to the forces where the duties are demanding. The age of retirement needs to be uniformly restricted to 57 in all CAPFs so that we have agile personnel fit to endure the arduous nature of duties.

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