The response at recruitment rallies flatters to deceive. There is no dearth of young people anxious to secure careers in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) ~ retaining them is fast becoming a problem. Information furnished by the home ministry when answering an un-starred question in the Rajya Sabha testifies to a 450 per cent increase in personnel opting for voluntary retirement from the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, SSB and Assam Rifles in 2016-17. No fewer than 9,065 personnel have moved back to “civilian life” over the last three years. While in 2014-15 the number taking VRS was 5298, it had dropped to 2,105 the next year, but rose again in the last financial year. The attrition has been “plaguing” the 10-lakh strong paramilitary, an official confessed. However, the government’s presently-favoured spin-doctor, Kiren Rijiju, sought to sell Parliament the line that personal and domestic reasons prompted the seeking of VRS. The Elders were also told that apart from VRS, there had been 1187 resignations in 2016-17; 1840 the previous year; and in 2014-15 resignations stood at 1989. According to the minister of state for home affairs, “the CAPF personnel proceed on voluntary retirement and resignation mainly due to personal domestic reasons including children and family issues, health or illness of self or family members”. Some opted for a less-demanding way of life after earning their retirement benefits.

Unshackled by political constraints, senior paramilitary officials point to the stressful working conditions when deployed in J&K, the North-east and the Maoist corridor, where basic creature comforts are in short supply, on sustained election duties, and in situations where securing leave cannot be taken for granted (a frequent cause of suicide/fratricide) and the inevitable contrast in the “compensation package” between the military and paramilitary ~ with the latter having fewer opportunities for “side income” than their counterparts in the local police. Disappointment with the award of the most-recent pay commission, and insufficient promotional avenues are other causes for serious discontent. In a security environment in which the “enemy within” can be as lethal as the external adversary, the need for a contented, high-morale force that is capably-led cannot be over-emphasised. The government’s tendency to gloss over, or cover up, the causes of serious dismay could have long-term implications: clearly there is need for a comprehensive review of all aspects of the CAPF working. Successive pay commissions have failed to satisfy the uniformed community ~ neither those wearing olive-green nor khaki. The role of the CAPF will only increase in coming times ~ particularly since successive governments have failed to tackle the core issues underlying domestic strife, and take the easy way out by treating the unrest in the North-east, Central India and J&K as mere law and order problems.