In December 2020, Deputy Commandant Vikas Kumar of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)’s elite unit, CoBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action), was seriously injured when an IED planted by Maoists went off in Sukma district, Chhattisgarh. He succumbed to his injuries the next day.
A month earlier, in Chintagufa area of Sukma, Assistant Commandant N. Purushottam Bhalerao was seriously injured along with nine other commandos when an IED went off during an anti-Maoist operation. Bhalerao succumbed to his injuries.
In April this year, two police constables — Omkar Raika and Pawan Chaudhary — of the Rajasthan Police were shot dead by suspected drug smugglers when they were carrying out routine checks of vehicles at checkpoints in Bhilwara district.
In memory of these and other colleagues killed, all the police forces of the State and Centre observe October 21 as Police Commemoration Day . This year, tributes were paid to 377 personnel who lost their lives in the line of duty between September 1, 2020, and August 31, 2021. As the CRPF is deployed in the highly disturbed areas of Jammu and Kashmir, the Northeast and the Left-Wing Extremist-affected States, the highest casualties (82) were seen in this force. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which guards the border from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh at forbidding heights, lost 54 of its personnel, while the Border Security Force lost 47 personnel. Among the State Police forces, Chhattisgarh, which is combating the Maoist menace, lost the most personnel (32) followed by J&K (17) and Karnataka (17).
October 21 is observed as Police Commemoration Day as it was on this day in 1959 that a pitched battle was fought against the Chinese in Ladakh close to the border. The Chinese opened fire killing 10 CRPF personnel. They took seven as prisoners, while three escaped. The incident went down in the history of the forces as an example of unflinching loyalty to the nation, dedication to duty and daring of the highest order.
Year after year, a contingent of the police comprising personnel of all ranks from all States and paramilitary forces of the country visit Hot Springs to pay homage to those who lost their lives that day. A memorial at the spot is testimony to the sacrifices made by our forces. On it is etched the famous epitaph by John Maxwell Edmunds: “When you go home/ Tell them of us/ And say/ ‘For your tomorrow,/ We gave our today’.” A company of the ITBP stands guard here even today in the extreme cold, guarding the border within visual distance of Chinese soldiers deployed across the border.
Don’t let sacrifices go in vain
Despite the onerous nature of their duties, the police are a neglected lot. They get paid low salaries, have a poor quality of life and are often deprived of basic facilities. Yet they risk their lives to protect citizens. The morale of the paramilitary personnel is not of the desired level. Those who cleared recruitment exams in 2003 but joined the force in 2004 or later are not eligible for pension under the old norms. Canteen and medical facilities are dismal. Items sold through the Central Police Canteens are not exempted from GST. It is high time the government takes note of the grievances of the police and paramilitary personnel and not let their sacrifices go in vain.
There are notable variations in the ex-gratia amounts given to the next of kin of the police who are killed. While certain States like Delhi and Tamil Nadu pay ₹1 crore, several other States dither to pay even half that amount. The Centre and the States need to bring about uniformity in the amount paid. While the Centre pays ex-gratia to the families of the Central Armed Police Forces which may be short of ₹1 crore, the balance should be borne by the States as ₹1 crore is reasonably sufficient to see the family through hard days. Care should be taken to ensure that the next of kin are not deprived of a decent living. Payments from the public exchequer need to be made judiciously.
M.P. Nathanael is Inspector General of Police (Retd), CRPF