Militarization

Militarization is at its heart a problem-solving ideology, using violence to solve problems in front of you, using military-type weapons, and using the threat of that violence. Over the last decade, the number of CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces) has almost doubled despite the major ministries, and departments of the central government have witnessed a decline in their personnel.The foremost function of a state is to ensure the safety of its citizens. And it is discharged through two principal instruments- The Army, to protect from external aggression and police, to ensure the safety of citizens’ properties. In federal systems, the former is controlled by the center while, latter by the states. While this has been the case with India that the army performing its tasks substantially better than the police. India is rare in having a third paramilitary instrument controlled at the federal level, not by the armed forces but rather by the Ministry of Home Affairs. While the CAPFs perform a range of functions, from riot control to VIP duties, overseas deployments, and disaster relief, they have two principal functions: guarding the country’s borders, and internal security. The largest CAPF, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), has been deployed principally in the two most vexing internal security challenges facing India — the strife in Jammu and Kashmir, and Left-wing extremism in central and eastern India. About 118 battalions of the CAPFs have been deployed to combat the Maoists using the Indian state’s “elephant” approach on dealing with insurgencies – throw tens of thousands of men (and now women as well) at the problem, and the sheer weight gradually crushes the opponent. More worryingly, this expansion has proceeded much more rapidly than that of the other security-providing instruments of the state, the army, and the police. In 1998, CAPFs were less than 58 percent of the size of the army and by 2015, this had increased to 82 percent and the number is climbing. The size of CAPFs relative to the civil police has increased by nearly 15 percent over the last two decades, which means that basic law and order which is the first line of defense and is already under severe stress is being neglected at the cost of a more militarized approach to policing. Organisationally, there are hard questions regarding the overall effectiveness of these forces, stemming from weaknesses in training, poor equipment, and ineffective leadership. Rapid expansion has meant that recent inductees have not gone through as much rigorous training as needed. But perhaps the biggest lacuna is leadership. The political leadership incessantly misuses them in activities like “VIP duty”. Also the officer: soldier casualty is too low as compared to the army.The results have been all too painful in the severity of casualties of the rank-and-file of the CAPFs. Suicide rates in the CRPF are at least as high as among Indian farmers, but there is little anguish in the media about that. Data indicates that far more perish from malaria and stress-related heart attacks than combat. Feeble leadership also underlies a weak esprit de corps in the units, with bodies not always recovered after ambushes, and weapons of dead soldiers looted by the Maoists, which would not happen to army units.There are fiscal implications, not just of relative priorities of public spending, but even for the CAPFs themselves, as pension and healthcare bills will sharply rise in due course and cut into much-needed spending on better equipment and facilities. This is happening to the army, where one can see the crowding-out effects of rising pensions bills on military modernization. But there might be an even more disturbing implication. The use of lethal force by organs of the state against its citizens requires utmost vigilance. The state needs to be extremely careful that the rapid growth of the CAPFs does not end up creating more problems than what it is trying to solve through this expansion.

Image by rawpixel.com