Recently, there have been multiple Naxal attacks on CRPF personnel in Chhattisgarh. Parliamentary Committees have previously examined the working of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs). In this context, we examine issues related to functioning of these Forces and recommendations made to address them.
What is the role of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs)?
Under the Constitution, police and public order are state subjects. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) assists state governments by providing them support of the Central Armed Police Forces. The Ministry maintains seven CAPFs: (i) the Central Reserve Police Force, which assists in internal security and counterinsurgency, (ii) the Central Industrial Security Force, which protects vital installations (like airports) and public sector undertakings, (iii) the National Security Guards, which is a special counterterrorism force, and (iv) four border guarding forces, which are the Border Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Sashastra Seema Bal, and Assam Rifles.
What is the sanctioned strength of CAPFs personnel compared to the actual strength?
As of January 2017, the sanctioned strength of the seven CAPFs was 10,78,514 personnel. However, 15% of these posts (1,58,591 posts) were lying vacant. Data from the Bureau of Police Research and Development shows that vacancies in the CAPFs have remained over the years. Table 1 shows the level of vacancies in the seven CAPFs between 2012 and 2017. The level of vacancies is different for various police forces. For example, in 2017, the Sashastra Seema Bal had the highest level of vacancies at 57%. On the other hand, the Border Security Force had 2% vacancies. The Central Reserve Police Force, which account for 30% of the sanctioned strength of the seven CAPFs, had a vacancy of 8%.
How often are CAPFs deployed?
According to the Estimates Committee of Parliament, the number of deployment of CAPFs battalions has increased from 91 in 2012-13 to 119 in 2016-17. The Committee has noted that there has been heavy dependence by states on central police forces even for day-to-day law and order issues. This is likely to affect anti-insurgency and border-guarding operations of the Forces, as well as curtail their time for training. The continuous deployment also leaves less time for rest and recuperation.
The Estimates Committee recommended that states must develop their own systems, and augment their police forces by providing adequate training and equipment. It further recommended that the central government should supplement the efforts of state governments by providing financial assistance and other help for capacity building of their forces.
What is the financial allocation to CAPFs?
Under the Union Budget 2018-19, an allocation of Rs 62,741 crore was made to the seven CAPFs. Of this, 32% (Rs 20,268 crore) has been allocated to the Central Reserve Police Forces. The Estimates Committee has pointed out that most of the expenditure of the CAPFs was on salaries. According to the Committee, the financial performance in case of outlays allocated for capacity augmentation has been very poor. For example, under the Modernization Plan-II, Rs 11,009 crore was approved for the period 2012-17. However, the allocation during the period 2013-16 was Rs 251 crore and the reported expenditure was Rs 198 crore.
What are the working conditions for CAPFs personnel?
The Standing Committee on Home Affairs in the year 2017 had expressed concern over the working conditions of personnel of the border guarding forces (Border Security Force, Assam Rifles, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and Sashastra Seema Bal). The Committee observed that they had to work 16-18 hours a day, with little time for rest or sleep. The personnel were also not satisfied with medical facilities that had been provided at border locations.
In addition, the Standing Committee observed that personnel of the CAPFs have not been treated at par with the Armed Forces, in terms of pay and allowances. The demand for Paramilitary Service Pay, similar to Military Service Pay, had not been agreed to by the Seventh Central Pay Commission. Further, the Committee observed that the hard-area allowance for personnel of the border guarding forces was much lower as compared to members of the Armed Forces, despite being posted in areas with difficult terrain and harsh weather.
What is the status of training facilities and infrastructure available to CAPFs?
The Estimates Committee has noted that all CAPFs have set up training institutions to meet their training requirements and impart professional skills on specialised topics. However, the Committee noted that there is an urgent need to upgrade the curriculum and infrastructure in these training institutes. It recommended that while purchasing the latest equipment, training needs should also be taken care of, and if required, should be included in the purchase agreement itself. Further, it recommended that the contents of training should be a mix of conventional matters as well as latest technologies such as IT, and cyber security.
According to the Estimates Committee, the MHA has been making efforts to provide modern arms, ammunition, and vehicles to the CAPFs. In this regard, the Modernization Plan-II, for the period 2012-17, was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security. The Plan aims to provide financial support to CAPFs for modernisation in areas of arms, clothing, and equipment.
However, the Committee observed that the procurement process under the Plan was cumbersome and time consuming. It recommended that the bottlenecks in procurement should be identified and corrective action should be taken. It further suggested that the MHA and CAPFs should hold negotiations with ordnance factories and manufacturers in the public or private sector, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of equipment and other infrastructure.
In the last few years, several states have enacted laws to curb cheating in examinations, especially those for recruitment in public service commissions. According to news reports, incidents of cheating and paper leaks have occurred on several occasions in Uttarakhand, including during the panchayat development officer exams in 2016, and the Uttarakhand Subordinate Services Selection Commission exams in 2021. The Uttarakhand Public Service Commission papers were also leaked in January 2023. The most recent cheating incidents led to protests and unrest in Uttarakhand. Following this, on February 11, 2023, the state promulgated an Ordinance to bar and penalise the use of unfair means in public examinations. The Uttarakhand Assembly passed the Bill replacing the Ordinance in March 2023. There have been multiple reports of candidates being arrested and debarred for cheating in public examinations for posts such as forest guard and secretariat guard after the ordinance’s introduction. Similar instances of cheating have also been noted in other states. As per news reports, since 2015, Gujarat has not been able to hold a single recruitment exam without reported paper leaks. In February 2023, the Gujarat Assembly also passed a law to penalise cheating in public examinations. Other states such as Rajasthan (Act passed in 2022), Uttar Pradesh (Act passed in 1998) and Andhra Pradesh (Act passed in 1997) also have similar laws. In this blog, we compare anti-cheating laws across some states (see Table 1), and discuss some issues to consider.
Typical provisions of anti-cheating laws
Anti-cheating laws across states generally contain provisions that penalise the use of unfair means by examinees and other groups in public examinations such as those conducted by state public sector commission examinations and higher secondary education boards. Broadly, unfair means is defined to include the use of unauthorised help and the unauthorised use of written material by candidates. These laws also prohibit individuals responsible for conducting examinations from disclosing any information they acquire in this role. The more recent laws, such as the Gujarat, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan ones, also include the impersonation of candidates and the leaking of exam papers within the definition of unfair means. Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Andhra Pradesh prohibit the use of electronic aids. Maximum prison sentences for using such unfair means range from three months in Uttar Pradesh, to seven years in Andhra Pradesh.
Issues to consider
The Gujarat and Uttarakhand anti-cheating Acts have relatively stringent provisions for cheating. The Uttarakhand Act has a fixed 3-year prison sentence for examinees caught cheating or using unfair means (for the first offence). Since the Act does not distinguish between the different types of unfair means used, an examinee could serve a sentence disproportionate to the offence committed. In most other states, the maximum imprisonment term for such offences is three years. Andhra Pradesh has a minimum imprisonment term of three years. However, all these states allow for a range with respect to the penalty, that is, the judge can decide on the imprisonment term (within the specified limits) depending on the manner of cheating and the implications of such cheating. Table 1 below compares the penalties for certain offences across eight states.
The Uttarakhand Act has a provision that debars the examinee from state competitive examinations for two to five years upon the filing of the chargesheet, rather than upon conviction. Thus, an examinee could be deprived of giving the examination even if they were innocent but being prosecuted under the law. This could compromise the presumption of innocence for accused candidates. The Gujarat and Rajasthan laws also debar candidates from sitting in specified examinations for two years, but only upon conviction.
These laws also vary in scope across states. In Uttarakhand and Rajasthan, the laws only apply to competitive examinations for recruitment in a state department (such as a Public Commission). In the other six states examined, these laws also apply to examinations held by educational institutions for granting educational qualifications such as diplomas and degrees. For example, in Gujarat, exams conducted by the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board are also covered under the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2023. The question is whether it is appropriate to have similar punishments for exams in educational institutions and exams for recruitment in government jobs, given the difference in stakes between them.
Sources: The Rajasthan Public Examination (Measures for Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2022; the Uttar Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 1998; the Chhattisgarh Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Act, 2008; the Orissa Conduct of Examinations Act, 1988; the Andhra Pradesh Public Examinations (Prevention of Malpractices and Unfair means) Act, 1997; the Jharkhand Conduct of Examinations Act, 2001, the Uttarakhand Competitive Examination (Measures for Prevention and Prevention of Unfair Means in Recruitment) Act, 2023, the Gujarat Public Examination (Prevention of Unfair Methods) Act, 2023; PRS.