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ASSAM RIFLES: TUSSLE BETWEEN MOD AND MHA

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

  • The Delhi High Court has granted 12 weeks to the Union government to decide on whether to scrap or retain the dual control structure for Assam Rifles, which comes under both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
  • Observing that the matter has been pending for almost three years, the court said it appears that an in-principle decision has been taken to keep the central armed police force under the exclusive control of MHA, but the final decision has not yet been taken.

What is Assam Rifles?

  • Assam Rifles is one of the six central armed police forces (CAPFs) under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The other forces being the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), the Border Security Force (BSF), the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • It is tasked with the maintenance of law and order in the North East along with the Indian Army and also guards the Indo-Myanmar border in the region.
  • Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force raised way back in 1835 in British India with just 750 men.
  • Since then it has gone on to fight in two World Wars, the Sino-Indian War of 1962 and used as an anti-insurgency force against militant groups in the North East.
  • It remains the most awarded paramilitary force in both pre- and post-independent India.

How is it unique?

  • It is the only paramilitary force with a dual control structure. While the administrative control of the force is with the MHA, its operational control is with the Indian Army, which is under the MoD.
  • This means that salaries and infrastructure for the force is provided by the MHA, but the deployment, posting, transfer and deputation of the personnel is decided by the Army.
  • The force is the only central paramilitary force (CPMF) in real sense as its operational duties and regimentation are on the lines of the Indian Army.
  • However, its recruitment, perks, promotion of its personnel and retirement policies are governed according to the rules framed by the MHA for CAPFs.
  • This has created two sets of demands from both within the Assam rifles and by MoD and MHA for singular control over the force by one ministry.

Why do both MHA and MoD want full control?

  • MHA has argued that all the border guarding forces are under the operational control of the ministry and so Assam Rifles coming under MHA will give border guarding a comprehensive and integrated approach.
  • MHA sources also say that Assam Rifles continues to function on the pattern set during the 1960s and the ministry would want to make guarding of the Indo-Myanmar border on the lines of other CAPFs.
  • The Army, for its part, has been arguing that there is no need to fix what isn’t broken.
  • Sources say the Army is of the opinion that the Assam Rifles has worked well in coordination with the Army and frees up the armed forces from many of its responsibilities to focus on its core strengths.
  • It has also argued that Assam Rifles was always a military force and not a police force and has been built like that.
  • It has argued that giving the control of the force to MHA or merging it with any other CAPF will confuse the force and jeopardise national security.

-Source: Indian Express

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October 2022
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