Indian Army Updates

Assam Rifles and the tussle between MoD and MHA

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assam Rifles

Mains level : India's paramilitary forces

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. Presently it comes under both the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

What is the 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.
  • It has a sanctioned strength of over 63,000 personnel and has 46 battalions apart from administrative and training staff.

Making of the regiment

  • 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.
  • Raised as a militia to protect British tea estates and its settlements from the raids of the NE tribes, the force was first known as Cachar Levy.
  • It was reorganized later as Assam Frontier Force as its role was expanded to conduct punitive operations beyond Assam borders.

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.
  • All its senior ranks, from DG to IG and sector headquarters, are manned by officers from the Army. The force is commanded by Lt. General from the Indian Army.
  • The force is the only central paramilitary force (CPMF) in a 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.

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 argued that giving the control of the force to MHA or merging it with any other CAPF will confuse the force and jeopardize national security.
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