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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Me Too



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There is a reason why our country, like others, maintains Para Military Forces (PMF) in addition to a standing army. The rationale is to have a lower cost force not required to be manned, trained and equipped with the same exacting standards as the armed forces, primarily for peace time border protection and internal security duties. Hence their entry standards for recruitment are not as stringent as the armed forces. The necessity of keeping such forces at a young age profile also doesn’t exist, unlike the army. Thus their troops retire at the ripe old age of 60 like any other government service, except the armed forces where they retire between 35 to 45 years of age.

The difference in quality / performance between PMF and the army is evident from the fact that the army is regularly called out to handle internal security situations and natural calamities- tasks that it would not be required to do if the PMF were more effective in dealing with them on their own. Insurgencies in the NE and Kashmir have been dealt with by deploying the army. The army would have also been deployed in Naxal affected areas if there hadn’t been such strong resistance from successive chiefs, with good reason. As regards guarding the borders, PMF are deployed on international boundary during peacetime. The LoC, which is more active, is held by the army, and even the IB is reinforced by regular troops during active hostilities.

Having said that, this does not imply the men in PMF don’t perform a critical function, or that they don’t undergo hardships. They do, but the only reason why their quality of life in field is not as good as that of the fauji Jawan is that all their senior officers are on deputation from IPS. The level of regimentation and concern for welfare of troops that is inherent in the DNA of armed forces officers can’t be matched by them. Incidentally, there are several benefits extended to the PMF which the soldiers are denied. For example, they are entitled TA/DA anytime they move 8 km beyond their permanent location. If the same is applied to army Jawans, they would probably earn more from this than their salaries every year.

Now in case the PMF are to be equated with army Jawans for pay, allowances and pensions, as is being murmured post the OROP movement, by all means do so. But if the government has to spend the same amount on each individual as it does on an army Jawan, then it makes more sense to simply disband the PMF and raise more army units with the same money. Enforce the same selection criterion and put them through the same training as the armed forces, and use them as regular army units. Also apply the same physical fitness standards, and retire them at the same ages to keep the profile young. That will ensure that the government gets more bang (pun not intended) for their buck, in the form of better trained men who can respond well to contingencies ab initio instead of a graded response from PMF to army. That is as far as peacetime is concerned. In war it would mean having a much larger standing army to deter any enemies that may dare to cross us.

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