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Gross misconduct

Editorial |

Even if the explanation from the top leadership is accepted, and there is little sinister to 59 jawans of the Central Reserve Police Force taking a brief spell of unauthorised leave, the matter is much too serious to be overlooked — as the “brass” seems to expect the taxpayer to do.

True that the details will only be available after the court of inquiry completes its probe, but a failure to take some kind of immediate action will send out the wrong signal that discipline can be compromised.

And the situation will not change should the 59 return to their designated work-place in Gaya in accordance with the original schedule. These were men selected to join the “crack” Cobra units (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), and questions must now arise if they are fit for the demanding tasks with which they will be entrusted.

Tackling left-wing extremism is not a joke, certainly not the kind of schoolboy prank (provided it was nothing worse) of spending a few days at “home” ahead of a potentially hard grind. For if the advancement of travel plans from their training centre in Srinagar afforded them a few days “off”, there is no telling what other corners could be cut while performing arduous duties.

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that their recent training did not enlighten them on the importance of the role they were being asked to play. Each time the Maoists inflict some damage on the security forces their stock” rises among the local populace — this time they have scored without firing a shot. In the process the Cobras have partially de-fanged themselves, wound up something of a laughing-stock. And an onslaught against the Maoists would be a poor way of attempting to redeem the image of the force.

The inquiry ordered by the CRPF must look at both the possibility of some troublesome ringleaders having ignited what might be termed a mini-revolt, as well as the quality of training and leadership in the organisation. Anti-Maoist operations require a high degree of motivation, not just “military” competence, and the track record is not very inspiring — there have been too many ambushes when squads are returning to camps after an operation has wound down.

It is also difficult not to see the obvious breakdown in discipline having no links with the present crisis in the paramilitary (and the military too) resulting from the officers and jawans living in different worlds. The government cannot underplay the erosion of trust that jawans have in their officers — as is evident from their resorting to “social media” to highlight perceived grievances. Unless remedied now, the “system” could come apart at the seams.