The recent attack on the Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh has once again brought to the fore the serious consequences of leaving important forces without top leadership. The post of Director General of CRPF had been vacant for nearly two months. It has taken a toll of 25 deaths of CRPF jawans for the government to be shaken out of its slumber and appoint Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, as the new Director General. Simultaneously, R K Pachnanda, presently the DG of the National Disaster Relief Force was designated to take over as the Director General of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. He is to take over after the present Chief Krishna Choudhary proceeds on superannuation on June 30. Pachnanda had earlier served as Additional Director General in the CRPF Headquarters.
The lackadaisical attitude of powers that be is quite evident from the fact that even three posts of Special Directors General have been vacant for quite sometime. One of these Special DGs is tasked to exclusively oversee the operations against Maoists in the Left Wing Extremist-affected states with Headquarters at Raipur. In the absence of any officer of the rank of Special Director General, the next junior in rank—an Additional Director General has been entrusted with the onerous responsibility of heading the three-lakh-strong body, the largest paramilitary force in the world. The malady of appointing officials as heads of forces after considerable delay leads one to suspect the motives of the powers that be.
Last year, the appointment of the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation was delayed by quite a few months until the apex court intervened and directed the government to appoint a director immediately. The motive behind delaying the appointment was quite apparent. The senior-most officer of CBI then, R K Dutta was eased out to join the Ministry of Home Affairs so that the sleuth next in seniority, Rakesh Asthana, an IPS officer of Gujarat cadre could be entrusted with the responsibility. Not much need be said any further.
One should be too naïve to believe that the leaders did not have the time to hold the meeting. The leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and the then Chief Justice of India T S Thakur, who were then the members of the selection committee, known for their rectitude, could have sabotaged any motive of the government to appoint a person of their choice and hence the deliberate procrastination.
To top it all, even the defence forces have not been spared from the malady of delayed appointments. Quite contrary to the tradition of announcing the Army Chief’s name at least two months in advance, the rank and file of the Army was left guessing as to who would be their next Chief until about a fortnight before the then Army Chief General Dalbir Singh Suhag was to retire on December 31, 2016.
As expected, two senior Lt. Generals were superseded and Lt. General Bipin Rawat was named the next Army Chief.The delay in announcing the chief had already sent a message that the next head could be anyone and not necessarily the senior most. Mercifully, the Army was not left headless and General Bipin Rawat took over honourably as the chief. The signals were loud and clear. Seniority and merit alone don't count for the top slots.
It was not just one but two Lt. Generals who were overlooked for no tangible reasons. For an officer of that stature, who earned his three-star General’s rank after several filtrations and strict scrutiny by Boards, the top post should have come to the senior most Lt General on a platter by virtue of his seniority. None would grudge a person being lifted to the exalted post merely because his seniority entitles him to it.
Four Lt Generals retired on March 31 this year but their replacements were delayed as proceedings of the promotion board had not been approved for over four months by the concerned authorities.
In the paramilitary forces, the norm is to give additional charge of Director General to the head of any other head of a paramilitary force until a new chief is selected and appointed. Precious time is lost in taking vital decisions as all important policy decisions are put on hold till a regular chief takes over.
When the defence services and the paramilitary forces which play a very important role in guarding our borders and maintaining law and order can be neglected in the appointment of their chiefs, the plight of other important organisations can well be imagined. Timely promotions in the defence services particularly above the rank of Brigadiers and its equivalent in the other services becomes all the more important as they have to perforce retire if they do not pick up the higher rank before a certain age.
The heads of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Intelligence Bureau too was delayed last year.
As of now, several commissions like the National Minority Commission, the National Commission for Schedule Tribes and the National Commission for Backward Classes are either headless or without the full strength of members.
The National Human Rights Commission functioned without one member for as long as two-and-a-half years. Finally, the member appointed after the intervention of the Supreme Court after considerable delay was a politician, much against the laid down stipulations for appointment of members.
The powers that be need to pay more attention to these important aspects of governance in appointing and promoting senior officers. The political masters have a duty towards the people who have elected them. They have to provide good governance for smooth and efficient functioning of every arm of the government.
M P Nathanael
Inspector General of Police (Retd), CRPF