5 December 2019 08:52 PM



‘My Letters Not Related to Pulwama, But Dysfunctional Status of CIAT Training in CRPF Remains’

“Let’s not confuse the issues”

A few months ago I sought early retirement from the Indian Police Service, looking to lead a quiet life. But to my surprise, recently a couple of prominent media outlets published the contents of a few official letters that I wrote as the Inspector-General, Counter-Insurgency and Anti-Terrorism School, Chittoor to the Central Reserve Police Force Headquarters.

I had highlighted the dysfunctional status of CIAT training in the CRPF, focusing in particular on the almost non-existent anti-terror training infrastructure and allied facilities at CIAT Chittoor.

While the objective of writing those letters was solely to persuade the CRPF leadership to revisit their lackadaisical approach towards CIAT training, a part of the subsequent commentary and public debate sought to draw a somewhat spurious connection between my critical assessment of our anti-terror training facilities/ commitment and our subsequent failure to prevent the Pulwama attack.

So, I say: let’s not confuse the issues, and desist from making straight-line conclusions between two facts that are otherwise only loosely connected.

I have never before commented in public regarding anything that I did in my official capacity. However, post-retirement, I am compelled to join this public debate, as I do not have any avenues to put forth my views and clarify my position officially. Thus, this rejoinder is essentially about providing a clearer perspective on the issues at hand to facilitate a more informed discussion.

On to the main issues that we ought to consider. First and foremost, I do not claim in any which way that we can successfully prevent all terrorist acts. After all, as the cliché goes: the enemy only has to get lucky once. Invariably moreover, the failures are always because of institutional or system-wide factors rather than being a product of a single all-important reason.

Simply put, better training capacities can only be one among a complex set of factors that might contribute to improving our odds in preventing a future Pulwama-like terror attack.

To reiterate, I made these communications over a period of two years from February 2016 to November 2018, much before the Pulwama attack on February 14, 2019. At the time of the Pulwama attack, I was already three months into my retirement. A big terror attack was only a possibility and not a reality at the time of these correspondences.

None of this is to say that the issues pertaining to CRPF’s CIAT Schools are irrelevant; they persist in their own right even today and perhaps carry even more salience.

As a brief background, the CIAT schools are a result of our response to the Kargil conflict and are based on the recommendations of the Group of Ministers that in essence assigned the responsibility for internal security to the CRPF. Accordingly, the CRPF set up CIAT Schools in Silchar (February 2005), Shivpuri (November 2009), and Chittoor (September 2014) with the primary objective of providing specialised anti-terror and counter-insurgency training to the CRPF personnel.

However, when I wrote these letters, none of the three CRPF CIAT Schools was conducting even a single full-fledged CIAT training program. CIAT Silchar had discontinued such training in September 2015, and was only offering an entirely different kind of training – Pre-Induction (PI) training, which is conducted even within some CRPF Battalions. CIAT Shivpuri was sailing in more or less the same boat. CIAT Chittoor was even more of a special case — the centre conducted no training whatsoever for any personnel of any kind during the period.

Even more astonishingly, since November 2018, CIAT Chittoor has begun offering training modules for the likes of buglers, quartermasters, and clerks; a far cry indeed from its original mandate.

Further, I found it perplexing during the media debates that certain widely-respected counter-insurgency experts and retired CRPF officers found it fit to equate the so-called PI-training with anti-terror and counter-insurgency training.

While PI-training aims to introduce and familiarise CRPF personnel with the specific challenges, geographical and cultural terrain, and the psychological profiles of insurgents/terrorists active in the new theatre of operation, CIAT training is essential for updating and enhancing the operational, combative, and strategic capabilities of the CRPF personnel in the counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism contexts.

Such an obviously specious argument thus begs an answer to an important question — if the objectives of PI-training and CIAT training are similar, then why did the government sanction specialised CIAT Schools in the first place?

Equally wondrous: the same experts also put forth the idea that the training staff (39 in total) at CIAT Chittoor is an adequate strength for imparting CIAT training to 800 to 850 trainees That this runs counter to the most minimalist requirements (20% of BPR&D’s prevailing norms) is beside the point, because as I mentioned earlier CIAT Chittoor has anyway never conducted a CIAT training of any sorts whatsoever..

Paradoxically, since its inception in September 2014, CIAT Chittoor employed more than 160 CRPF personnel at the Centre with full salaries/allowances, and incurred expenditure towards constructing temporary infrastructure facilities for basic hygiene needs throughout these 50 months, while providing PI-training for only 20 months at Ambikapur (a satellite facility); training that otherwise anyway had little to do with CIAT requirements.

How is this not wasteful and avoidable expenditure?

In summary, the sub-optimal utilisation of CRPF personnel and expenditures unrelated with any deliverable outcomes is part of the wider institutional malaise and an important sign of administrative neglect.

At the same time, I agree that developing a large training facility takes time and is not an overnight process. However, an abject failure to begin the construction of even a single permanent infrastructure facility at CIAT Chittoor since its inception in September 2014 raises serious questions about our institutional commitment.

It is particularly significant because during the same time the Government allotted nearby land to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the Border Security Force, and the Army, for establishing their Battalion Headquarters and a Sainik School, respectively. Except for the CRPF, all the other agencies had almost completed developing the infrastructure required for their facilities. In fact, the Sainik School is now fully functional.

This above all signifies the dismal apathy of the CRPF leadership in building organisational capacities to combat terror.

Finally, I object to several attempts to impute extra-professional motives to my official communications. The letters that I wrote were always in response to the issues raised by the CRPF Headquarters; in other words, they did not raise issues suo moto.

Organisational voice is anyway a critical input in strengthening our institutional capacities, and we must engage all the police leadership, academics, security experts to get our priorities right. Taken in that spirit, the issues I flagged only served as a timely reminder.

Perhaps dismissing such concerns out of hand is an easy way out, as it serves to avoid answering hard questions. But we must bear in mind that such an attitude only impedes us from improving.

We may callously dismiss the need for integrating operational tactics for the safe transport and movement of security personnel, including extensive familiarisation with ROP procedures with CIAT training, but needless to say such an omission is only an invitation for more trouble.

Such ostrich mentality is not going to take us anywhere. Institutional evolution needs a commitment to capacity building, and a nurturing attitude towards developing centers of excellence for training.

Rajnish Rai is a retired IPS officer. Views expressed are personal.

In the wake of an encounter in Assam in May 2017, The Citizen wrote about CRPF IG Rajnish Rai’s allegations that it was staged. Next month Rai was posted out of Assam.