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Vacancies, Suicides, Fratricides And Mental Health Issues Plague India’s Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)

The number of vacancies in the Central Armed Police Forces is rising yearly, as are its problems. While the government has said that the vacancies would be filled soon, sources tell The Probe that on-ground working conditions of the jawans have only gone from bad to worse.

By Bhaswati Sengupta
New Update

publive-image Graphics courtesy: The Probe

Sarvesh Tripathi, an ex-Assistant Commandant with the Central armed police forces (CRPF), left the organisation after he felt that his growth in the force was stunted. Like Sarvesh, many personnel working with India’s Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) continue to either leave the organisation or suffer in silence. The plight of the jawans doesn’t get the attention it deserves, and most people we spoke to say they are “overworked and underpaid”.

“In CRPF, I have worked in various difficult terrains. I have worked in Gadchiroli in naxal operations. I have served the force in various capacities, but I left the force because I was not getting the growth I aspired for. There are many vacancies in the CAPF, but the government is not filling them because they do not intend to. There are many other issues. For instance, the 2018 SSC GD Constable batch has cleared all the phases of the exam, but they haven’t yet received the recruitment letter,” says Tripathi.

Sarvesh Tripathi, ex-Assistant Commandant with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) speaks to The Probe’s correspondent Bhaswati Sengupta on the working conditions within CRPF.

According to the latest data shared on the recruitment of CAPF (Central armed police forces), the government has said that a total of 84,866 posts were vacant in the CAPF against the sanctioned 10,05,520 posts. The government has often admitted that because of the vacant posts, existing CAPF personnel are overworked to meet the growing demands of the force. The forces in which a maximum number of posts are lying vacant are the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sahastra Seema Bal (SSB) and the Assam Rifles.

“The number of vacancies is so alarming. As a unit commander, I had to face many challenges. I had to get the prerequisite strength that we needed for operations. That apart, I needed to sanction leaves. How do you do all this when you don’t have enough people in the force? The jawans are overworked and underpaid. They work at least 15 to 16 hours a day every single day. They work like this for seven days a week without leaves. Their working conditions are bad. This is a national security issue and must be immediately addressed,” asserts Tripathi.

The Probe spoke to Jayanto Narayan Choudhury, a 1978 batch IPS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre. Choudhury was also the Director General of the National Security Guard (NSG). Choudhury states that recruitment almost came to a standstill during Covid-19. “The demand for the CAPF has increased in the country tremendously. They have been heavily deployed in the naxal-affected areas. They are heavily deployed in J&K and the Northeast. There are a lot of demands along the border areas. They are deployed at airports and several key locations. Their demand has increased so much that there isn’t enough time anymore for training like it used to happen years ago. The halting of recruitment during Covid has affected the force,” says Choudhury.

Choudhury notes that the vacant posts, lack of basic amenities, and work pressures have drained the forces. He says this has also given rise to the problem of increased cases of suicides within the CAPF. Last year, the government revealed that as many as 657 personnel belonging to the CAPF committed suicide in five years. This February, the government disclosed that the cases of suicides and fratricides had steadily risen in the CAPF. A Task Force appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) noted that the triggers include harassment, humiliation and leave-related concerns.

Shyam Mehrotra, IG of the Eastern Frontier of the ITBP, states that the situation is not alarming as far as the ITBP is concerned. “Every month, we have a Sainik Sabha. We have a system of asking jawans about their issues. For instance, whenever I go for a field formation, we ensure that every jawan is availing leave three times a year,” affirms Mehrotra. Regarding suicides, Mehrotra claims that his examination has led him to believe that in the ITBP, the family issues faced by the jawans may be the reason for suicides, not administrative issues within the force.

publive-image Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel | Photo courtesy: CISF

On condition of anonymity, a CRPF constable told The Probe that currently, at the CRPF, some of the jawans are doing the work of two to three people because of a shortage of personnel. “There is no progress on the ground level when it comes to filling the vacancies. We can’t even say it is a 16-hour duty. Until the time we are not on leave, our duty is 24 hours. I can be called anytime and asked to go for duty anywhere. Many of us are facing much mental pressure. Sometimes when a jawan comes back after work, he may be immediately recalled for more work. Amit Shah ji has asked us to activate Ayushman cards. Everyone has it. But, the soldiers do not know how to use it. No one is getting the benefits of all this. Our families don’t get any benefits. The problems are plenty,” he notes.

Ajay Raj Sharma, a 1966 batch IPS officer and former Director General of the BSF, states that many jawans work overtime, and some suffer from severe mental health issues. This is one of the contributing factors to suicides in the forces. “The reason that leaves are not sanctioned is that people who are to be on leave cannot be too many. At a time, they can give leave only to a certain number of people to maintain their battalion strength. The reason behind the increasing number of suicides among CAPFs is the conditions they are working in. They work in extremely challenging conditions, and then they have to meet their family requirements which they often fail to fulfil. They suffer from severe mental health issues. I know that the vacancies cannot be filled overnight, but if their grievances are adequately addressed in a time-bound manner, many jawans can heave a sigh of relief,” asserts Sharma.

While the government has said that it will fill up the vacancies soon, many jawans told The Probe that on the ground, their working conditions have moved from bad to worse and full-fledged recruitments are yet to take place.

Central armed police forces Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the National Police Memorial in New Delhi | Photo courtesy: www.nationalpolicememorial.gov.in

“I don’t know if many people have been to the National Police Memorial in Chanakyapuri in New Delhi, which honours the police personnel who sacrificed their lives for national security. These are brave jawans who fought on our country’s borders. They fought against terrorism, militancy and crime to protect us. The sacrifices they have made are enormous. There are around 766 districts in the country. From almost every district and every block, you have people who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. There are so many valiant stories of how these people put their self and family interests aside and made the supreme sacrifice for our country. When we remember their bravery, the least we can do is understand the plight of the jawans, make their living and working conditions better, and fill up the vacancies with no further delay,” asserts Choudhury.

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