The Odisha Government has announced formation of the Odisha Auxiliary Police Force (OAPF), its tribal police force, by sourcing its personnel from the much-hyped Special Police Officers (SPOs) deployed in 19 police districts to combat the Naxals.
The Government had sanctioned 5,600 posts for SPOs in three phases since 2009 wherein tribal youths were drafted for a period of three years to supplement the efforts of the district police to take on the Left Wing Extremists.
At least 1,791 of the SPOs have already completed three years and will be absorbed into the auxiliary police force as constables and sepoys.
The OAPF will have the same duties and responsibilities as that of the regular police and remain under command of the Superintendent of Police (SP) in a district.
Before notifying formation of the OAPF, the Government also paved the way for the Force by creating 4,855 posts. While those who have successfully completed three years will be absorbed into the auxiliary force, others will follow as and when they complete their tenure as SPOs and certified by the district police.
In fact, the Home Department which notified the formation of OAPF has also placed under suspension the vacancies in a phased manner in the cadre of constables/sepoys beginning this year.
Till 2020, every year, an earmarked number of vacancies will remain under suspension, without any recruitment being made. Similarly, the 745 vacancies in SPOs have also been abolished by the Government since the new Force has been raised.
It was in 2008 that the State Government had felt that certain groups of ST communities were not well represented in the State Police Force despite reservations. Social deprivation such as inadequate educational qualification was seen as the problem for the ST communities to get drafted into the police force.
The Government, to bring them up in the social ladder, devised the SPO force, following the Chhattisgarh model, by relaxing the educational qualification to Class VIII instead of Class X and Plus Two.
The SPOs being local tribal youths, their knowledge of the local terrain was used as advantage to take on the Maoists. Recruited on a contractual basis, the SPOs were imparted police training for three months and anti-Naxal operations, intelligence gathering, logistics support for another two months.
With the gradual induction of the tribals into OAPF, the Government has pinned hopes that it will send a positive message to the public about its ‘pro-tribal’ policy.