Mains Paper 3: Defense and Security
Prelims level: Assam Rifles
Mains level: Pros and cons of the Mergers of ITBP and Assam Rifles
The Ministry of Home Affairs has proposed that the Assam Rifles should
be merged with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and serve under the
operational control of the MHA.
At present, the Assam Rifles, a Central paramilitary force, is under the
administrative control of the MHA and operational control of the Army, i.e.
the Ministry of Defence. The Army is opposed to this proposal.
History of Assam Rifles
It was formed as Cachar Levy in 1835 to assist the British rulers in
maintaining peace in the Northeast, the Assam Rifles, which had just about
750 men, proved its capability and efficiency.
This necessitated its expansion.
The unit was converted into the Assam Military Police Battalion with two
additional battalions in 1870.
They were known as the Lushai Hills Battalion, Lakhimpur Battalion and
Naga Hills Battalion. Just before World War I, another battalion, the
Darrang Battalion, was added.
They all rendered great service by assisting the British in Europe and
West Asia during the war. These battalions were then renamed Assam Rifles.
They continued to be regular armed police battalions, but with the
‘Rifles’ tag, which was a matter of honour for their competence, on par with
any regular Army battalion.
It was after the Chinese aggression in 1962 in Arunachal Pradesh that
the Assam Rifles battalions were placed under the operational control of the
Assam Rifles personnel who were acclimatised to the region were better
suited for operations then.
It needs to be remembered that one of the major causes for India’s
defeat was the fact that the regular Army units were not used to the extreme
weather. The decision taken then was in keeping with the requirements. This
is not the case any more.
All Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) are acclimatised to almost every
region of the country now due to country-wide deployment of all CAPF
Mergers of ITBP and Assam Rifles
The operational role performed by the ITBP at 18,700 feet in Ladakh is
testimony enough to its capability to guard the border in any part of the
It needs to be noted that back in 2001, the Group of Ministers had
stated that the principle of ‘One Border, One Force’ should be strictly
If ITBP can guard the India-China border in Ladakh, there is no reason
why it cannot guard the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond.
The concept of having two masters for an organisation one for
administrative control and another for operational control is not only
absurd but also leads to problems of coordination.
The Home Ministry’s move to merge all its 55,000-strong Assam Rifles
with the ITBP is a step in the right direction.
Opposed to the move
The Army argues that the Assam Rifles should be merged with it, to
ensure national security.
It requires no wisdom to conclude that the Army would lose its
promotional avenues once this paramilitary force is merged with the ITBP, as
it would be directly under the control of the Home Ministry.
At present, nearly 80% of officers’ ranks from Major upwards are held by
Army officers on deputation.
A Lieutenant General of the Army holds the post of Director General of
Assam Rifles. It is natural for the Army to oppose the move.
The Chief may be appointed from among IPS officers. But for the tussle
between the IPS and the CAPF officers, consequent to the CAPF being brought
under the fold of Organised Group ‘A’ Service this year.
It would be the direct officers of Assam Rifles who will eventually take
up the top posts.
The Home Ministry, under Rajnath Singh, took up the issue of merger with
the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
The matter is in the Delhi High Court now after retired personnel filed
a petition saying they were facing difficulties in drawing pension because
of dual control.
The merger issue needs to be taken up on priority by the CCS so that
doubts are cleared.
The modalities of absorbing the officers should be worked out to stall
any situation of a vacuum being created once the deputationists are
repatriated to the Army.
Q.1) With reference to the International solar alliance (ISA), consider
the following statements: 1. It is an UN initiative that was launched in 2015 at Paris, France on the
side-lines of the COP-19.
2. The overarching objective of the ISA is to collectively address key common
challenges to the scaling up of solar energy in ISA member countries.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2
Q.1) Do you think the Home Ministry’s move to merge the Assam Rifles with the
ITBP is a step in the right direction? Comment.