The chances of a paramilitary jawan dying in an anti-Naxal operation are at least three times higher than in an anti-terrorist operation in Jammu and Kashmir.
But they get at least 20 per cent less in allowances when they fight Naxals in the forests of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh than they do for taking on terrorists in J&K’s Baramulla.
And this is the situation when the government has just completed an exhaustive exercise to give lakhs of central para-military personnel a fair deal. From April, a constable transferred from the Kashmir Valley or the Northeastern states to reclaim Red territory in the Naxal-infested states will find his monthly risk allowance going down by Rs 700. This is a 20 per cent difference, down from Rs 4,107 to Rs 3,407.
The risk to his life, however, will be much higher. Last year, more security personnel (231) were killed in Naxal-affected states than in J&K (75) and the Northeast (46) put together.
“It is very unfair… and very demoralising for the jawans fighting Naxals,” said a senior police officer in Delhi who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.
When the home ministry first moved the proposal to bring the risk allowances of paramilitary forces on a par with those of the army, P.S. Nair, general secretary, All India Central Paramilitary Forces (retired) Welfare Association, said they finally expected “justice”.
But the bureaucracy tied them down to an endless debate. And when the orders were out in mid-April, Nair said they felt “cheated”.
According to the ministry’s directive, paramilitary personnel will get the higher allowance — ‘CI (operations) field area allowance’ -- only when they are deployed in areas defined by the army. This implies areas where the defence forces are deployed for counter-insurgency operations.
Jawans posted in Naxal-affected states were brought under the lower category of risk allowance: ‘CI (operations) modified field area allowance’.
“It is wrong to let the army’s deployment decide our allowance,” said a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer. “Parity means the same principles should be applied.”
The CRPF, India’s largest central force, has over 35,000 men fighting Naxals across half a dozen states. Nearly 90 per cent of the 2.7 lakh-plus force is deployed across the three theatres of violence: J&K, the Northeast and the Naxal affected states.
A 1994 order of the defence ministry classified a ‘CI (operations) field area’ as one where troops are deployed near the border for operational requirement and where the eminence of hostility and associated risk to life exists.
The ‘modified field area’ is an area where troops are deployed in support of combat troops and the degree of operational readiness is slightly lower than in a ‘field area’.
“If a place like Lalgarh, which Maoists had declared as a liberated zone, is not a full-fledged zone of conflict, then what is?” said a CRPF officer.