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HC asks Centre to decide on control over Assam Rifles

Topics Covered: Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

HC asks Centre to decide on control over Assam Rifles:


Why in News?

Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to take a call on the issue of bringing Assam Rifles out of the dual control of the Home Ministry (MHA) and the Defence Ministry (MoD).

Background:

The direction came on a petition filed by Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association seeking direction to the government for placing to bring Assam Rifles under one control, preferably under Indian Army (MoD).

 About Assam Rifles:

  • Assam Rifles which is also referred to as the Sentinels of North East is the oldest paramilitary force of India.
  • Assam Rifles is one of the six central armed police forces (CAPFs) under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The unit can trace its lineage back to a paramilitary police force that was formed under the British in 1835 called Cachar Levy.
  • The noted anthropologist Verrier Elwin once described Assam Rifles as “friends of the hill people”.

Key mandate of Assam Rifles:

  1. Internal security under the control of the army through the conduct of counter insurgency and border security operations.
  2. Provision of aid to the civilians in times of emergency
  3. Provision of communications, medical assistance and education in remote areas.
  4. In times of war they can also be used as a combat force to secure rear areas if needed.
  5. Since 2002, they are also guarding the 1,643 km long Indo-Myanmar border.

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.

What’s the issue?

The dual control structure 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.

  • A large section within the force wants to be under the administrative control of the MoD, as that would mean better perks and retirement benefits which are far higher compared to CAPFs under MHA.

Why do both MHA and MoD want full control?

MHA’s arguments:

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.

Army’s arguments:

  • 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.
  • Besides, Assam Rifles was always a military force and not a police force and has been built like that. Therefore, giving the control of the force to MHA or merging it with any other CAPF will confuse the force and jeopardise national security.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What are CAPFs?
  2. What is dual control related to Assam Rifles?
  3. Genesis of Assam Rifles.
  4. Key mandate of Assam Rifles.

Mains Link:

What is the dual control issue related to Assam Rifles? How can it be resolved? Discuss.

Sources: the Hindu.