Can a central police force, tasked to guard the frontiers of the country, be left for months without a regular chief? And can it be so despite what has recently happened at India’s border with China? Though such questions may sound quite unseemly, but today it is a fact that a force as crucial as the Border Security Force (BSF) remains without a regular Director-General.
So much so that the vacancy at the top of the force continues to be kept in limbo for now nearly four months and no appointment to head the force has been made thus far.
The last DG BSF Vivek Johri left the force on March 10 to take over as Director-General of Madhya Pradesh Police. So the government decided to put the BSF under the charge of the Director-General of Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) SS Deswal.
Soon the COVID-19 outbreak took place and the ITBP was assigned in addition to its other functions to build a quarantine Centre at Chhawala near Delhi to intern passengers flown from Wuhan. This task has been further escalated as ITBP has recently been made the nodal authority to look after the mammoth COVID-19 treatment facility built at Radha Swami Ashram at Chhatarpur in South Delhi.
Notably, the primary task of both the ITBP and BSF is to man the forward line of defence at India’s borders with the neigbouring countries. The ITBP is positioned at India’s borders with China and the BSF jawans guard borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The enormity of this main task of the two forces goes without saying. Yet, in the wake of the Corona scourge, the ITBP has been dragged into what is rather a civilian duty. And its director general has been asked to double up as chief of the BSF too, pending the appointment of the DG BSF.
Add to this the absence of a regular Special Secretary for Internal Security in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. He is supposed to look after Central Police Forces, including BSF and ITBP. The last Special Secretary looking after Internal Security was AP Maheshwari. He was made Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in January this year. The government is yet to find his replacement and fill the important post.
The point is that though the government goes to great lengths to assure about the security and safety of the country and its people, its neglect in making even the routine decisions to fill significant positions in the security set-up is becoming too palpable to be missed by anyone.
(The writer is an independent journalist based in Delhi. He tweets @abidshahjourno)