In the wake of Independence, a contentious administrative issue was over the retention of CRP (Crown Representative Police).
As the Constitution designated ‘law and order’ as a State subject, the relevance of having a Central police force was questioned by everyone, except Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, who argued vehemently and boldly in favour of it.
From having just two battalions as the CRP, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has now expanded to being a three-and-a-half lakh-strong force consisting of specialist wings like the Rapid Action Force, the COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), and the Special Duty Group.
It is the largest paramilitary force in the world and no other security force of the country has seen expansion at such a rapid rate.
Providing integrated security to a diverse country of continental size is not an easy task. Resolving certain conflicts requires immediate solutions for which regular armed forces cannot be deployed.
Hence, we require paramilitary forces, and the CRPF is the most sought-after one because of its flexibility and versatility.
The force has earned its place as the ‘peacekeeper of the nation’.
April 9 is observed as ‘Valour Day’ by the CRPF because it was on this day in 1965 that an ordinary battalion of the CRPF repulsed an attack by a Pakistani brigade.
Similarly, October 21 is observed as ‘Commemoration Day’ by all police forces, as a mark of respect to the CRPF soldiers who, in their fight against the Chinese Army in 1959, at Hot Springs, Leh, made the supreme sacrifice.
However, this glowing track record pales into insignificance when we consider the mass casualties the Force has had to suffer.
In April 2010, at least 75 of its soldiers were killed by Maoists, numbering about 300, in Dantewada early morning when they were returning after a night-long patrol.
And last year, the Pulwama attack happened.
What made Pulwama different from the earlier episodes of mass casualties was the unparalleled response from the political leadership, civil society and all other stakeholders to the attack.
A year after the attack, it is time for the nation to take a relook at the main agency dealing with conflicts in different territorial zones.
The frequent movements lock, stock and barrel are taking its toll. There are increasing cases of suicides and fratricides.
The anguish caused because of prolonged periods of duty away from one’s family members adds to the pressure experienced the soldiers having their fingers constantly on the trigger guard, where a delay in response by even seconds can cost them their lives.
Though the Home Minister recently stated that CRPF jawans would get to spend 100 days with their families every year, considering the present levels of commitment, 100 days of leave is an impossible dream for a soldier.
An easier way out here would be to revisit the government’s decision on tasking specific Central Paramilitary Forces exclusively with certain operations.
It should be compulsory for recruits to all Central Police Forces to be deployed to anti-insurgency roles during their first 15 years of service, when they are newly trained and fighting fit. They can be shifted, in the next 10 years, to border duties. The last phase of their career should be in static duties.
The welfare and morale of the soldiers needs to be taken care of.
Provision of canteen facilities, without tax exemption, hardly gives the soldiers any relief.
Another demand that needs to be considered is that of a One Rank, One Pension scheme.
Best guarded by officers born on the cadre.
The first anniversary of the Pulwama attacks should enable all stakeholders to device ways and means to plug the loopholes and address the system failures in a Force that still remains the most formidable in internal security matters.
A royal mess
The telecom industry is in turmoil unable to pay up its dues.
The Court is aghast that its order is not being complied with.
Then there is the government torn between revenue considerations, the need to uphold sanctity of contracts, and ensuring that one of the players does not go under in the process of honouring the verdict.
Bharti Airtel paid ₹10,000 crore on Monday with the promise of paying the rest before mid-March when the court will hear the case next.
Vodafone Idea, the one hit the most by the judgment, on Monday sought more time to pay up but the Court was in no mood to humour the company and refused to hear the plea.
The company eventually paid ₹2,500 crore by the evening.
They could have paid up their annual dues over the years — which were not material in relation to their respective turnovers — under protest even as they litigated the case in the top court.
That would have obviated the need to pay interest and penalties now which are higher than the actual dues. If Vodafone shuts shop Industry be reduced to a duopoly 15,000 direct jobs Several thousand more indirect ones Cascading effect will be felt across the economy What happens to the 212 million Vodafone subscribers?
The government has to, therefore, examine what it can do to save the situation without disrespecting the Court’s verdict.
Whatever route it chooses to soften the blow, the government will have to get the Court on its side at the next hearing on March 17.
The need of the hour is pragmatism laced with prudence on all sides to clean up this royal mess.
The Supreme Court has delivered a sharp rebuke to the government by asking it to adhere to its own stated policy, articulated on February 25, 2019, on granting permanent commission to women in the Short Service Commission (SSC).
Though women are absorbed into the SSC, they are now denied permanent commission in most branches of the Indian Army. Principle of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the Constitution.
Stereotypes of women and their physiological features
As long as society holds strong beliefs about gender roles there will not be change of mindsets, the top court observed.
The Court has forced acknowledgement of the sterling role women have played and continue to play, shoulder to shoulder, with their male counterparts, for the security of the nation.
It is a telling state of affairs that though Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on August 15, 2018 that permanent commission would be granted to serving women officers of the armed forces, it needed the Supreme Court to prod the government into doing it.
The efforts of the litigants, who have waged an uphill battle since 2003.
This discrimination should happen even while the Indian Army experiences a shortfall of officers by about 10,000 in the ranks is all the more galling.
Given the inherent flaws in the structure, implementation and change are not likely to happen soon, even given the Court’s deadline of three months.
India’s disturbing trauma narrative
Sedition case in Bidar, Karnataka
Not only did the arrest of the mother, a single parent, leave the child in the care of a neighbour but the arrest of the principal of their school left all the children without their trusted headmistress.
These traumatic experiences are not only a violation of the fundamental rights of the child but are severely damaging to their mental health.
The most damaging kind of trauma is that which results in “toxic stress”, a term used to describe a child’s experience of persistent adversity or abuse. “I felt lonely and sad because all I have is my mother. I have never lived without her for a single day. So I was terrified.”
Consider the harrowing accounts of the experiences of children in a shelter home in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, where young girls were kept locked up for most of the day and where they were raped, after being sedated, at night.
Yet another example of unspeakable violence has unfolded in the past week with dozens of young women being insulted, paraded and forced to remove their innerwear to prove they were not on their period by their principal and school staff after a used personal hygiene product was found in a garden of their school, in Bhuj, Gujarat.
Fear is key to survival for, in leading to behaviours such as crying, it prompts a trusted adult to respond with affection, food or, most importantly, safety.
But there are times when the fear can have catastrophic consequences and this is when the threat is persistent and unpredictable and, especially when, it is perpetrated by an adult who the child has been taught to trust and rely on for their protection — such as the police or the school principal or the child welfare worker or the army.
In the past week, a panel of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights concluded that “it is clear that the police violated the rights of the children at the [Bidar] school”.
Let me emphasise that my concerns about traumatising children have nothing to do with taking sides with a particular brand of politics or ideology, but simply about upholding the foundations of science, the law, ethics and, ultimately, our humanity.
I have little doubt that the children of Shaheen Urdu Medium Primary School, the Muzaffarpur shelter home, the Shri Sahjanand Girls’ Institute and all over Kashmir, cry to see their beloved country descend into such madness that it has lost its moral compass.
Protecting children’s right to protest
There are many legal and social difficulties involved in the Supreme Court’s move to take suo motu cognisance of children taking part in demonstrations in Shaheen Bagh in Delhi.
Two unrelated issues
It is indeed a tragedy that an infant died in the cold during the protests earlier this month.
But criminalising the mother and putting the onus of the child’s death on her negligence rather than questioning and examining the economic and political reasons for poverty is a travesty of justice.
A child has as much right to be present at a protest site as any adult
A wall is being built in Ahmedabad to apparently hide slums from the U.S. President during his visit this month.
A child’s right to protest
Implicit in the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms under Article 19 of the Constitution is the right to protest.
This right is guaranteed to all citizens of India regardless of age.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which India has ratified, expressly recognises in Article 13 that freedom of expression of the child includes the “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child’s choice. ”
Both the Indian Constitution and the CRC state that no restriction may be placed on these freedoms except those that are necessary and imposed by statute for the “purposes of safeguarding the sovereignty, integrity and security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence”.
Even these restrictions must pass the test of reasonableness as understood by the constitutional courts. Further, the CRC, in Article 5, recognises the “evolving capacities” of children.
This means that as children acquire enhanced competencies, there is a diminishing need for them to be protected.
The law recognises that children do not magically acquire agency when they turn 18 years, but are capable of exercising their rights and that the law must facilitate the same.
Article 12 of the CRC provides that member states should assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely.
For this purpose, the child should be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly or through a representative.
Therefore, there can be no restriction on a child’s right to protest without hearing the child. While many schools encourage children to read newspapers and watch news channels, attending a protest is also a way for children to receive information and ideas.
A protest is also a space where children get to experience and assert citizenship
If one parent is held to be an illegal migrant, it means the child will also be considered an illegal migrant.
A child has as much right to be present as a stakeholder at such a protest as any adult. Also, why is it perfectly acceptable for children to participate in an anti-pollution protest in peak winter, but not in the protests at Shaheen Bagh?
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