Central Armed Police Forces

Central Armed Police Forces

This article deals with the ‘Central Armed Police Forces .’ This is part of our series on ‘Internal Security’, an important pillar of the GS-3 syllabus. For more articles, you can click here.


Central Armed Police Force is a set of police forces which includes the Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force,  Border Security Force, Assam Rifles, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, National  Security Guard, Railway Protection  Force (RPF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the Sashastra  Seema  Bal. The  CAPF works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the Indian Government.

Central Armed Police Forces

1. Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)

  • CISF was raised in 1969.
  • Its mandate is to 
    1. Provide security to critical infrastructure installations of the country like the Department of Space, Department of Atomic Energy, Airports, Delhi Metro, ports, historical monuments etc.
    1. Protect some private sector units and important government buildings in Delhi.
    2. Provide security to the protected persons classified as Z Plus, Z, X and Y.
  • CISF is also the country’s largest fire protection service provider, providing fire protection cover to 102 Industrial Undertakings.
  • CISF was assigned the specialized task of airport security in 2000 in the wake of the hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-814 to Kandahar.
  • CISF Act has been amended to enable it to provide security on a payment basis to private enterprises. Hence, CISF is also providing security to Infosys and Wipro headquarters.

2. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)

  • It was raised as CROWN REPRESENTATIVE POLICE FORCE (CRPF) in 1939 and rechristened as Central Reserve Police Force after independence. 
  • It is headquartered in Neemuch, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Its composition and deployment are all India in character.
  • It helps state police in maintaining law and combat insurgency.
  • It is the largest Central Para Military Force.
  • CRPF is the only Central Armed Police Force with 6 Mahila (Ladies) Battalions.


  • Maintain rule of law and public order.
  • Crowd control & riot control.
  • Countering the militancy.
  • Dealing with Left Wing Extremism.
  • Protection of VIPs and vital installations.
  • Rescuing and relief operations during calamity.
  • Participation in UN Peacekeeping Missions.
  • Ensure peaceful conduct of elections.
  • Fighting the enemy in the event of war.

Rapid Action Force

  • It was raised by converting 10 CRPF battalions in 1992.
  • Its mandate is to rush to the place of incidence of the riot in Zero Response Time and carry out operations there in a non-partisan manner.

CoBRA Battalions

  • CoBRA = Commando Battalions for Resolute Action
  • It was raised from 10 battalions of CRPF in 2008.
  • They are trained to counter left-wing extremism.
  • They specialize in jungle warfare, also known as ‘Jungle Warriors’. A CoBRA School for specialized training in Jungle Warfare & Tactics has also started for their training.
  • They are experts in short & intelligence-based quick operations. 
  • They are stationed in LWE-affected states of Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh, as well as Assam & Meghalaya.

3. Border Security Force (BSF)

  • BSF is the world’s largest Border Security Force
  • It was established in 1965 under Home Ministry to do away with the multiplicity of State Forces guarding the Indo-Pak Border. After the formation of Bangladesh, it was also made responsible for guarding the Indo-Bangladesh border.
  • Border Security Force personnel have also been deployed in United Nations Stabilization Missions. The BSF troops are performing their duties exemplary to ensure the UN mandate.
  • Presently, it has 192 battalions. 


Peacetime Mandate

  • Promote a sense of security among people living in border areas.
  • Prevent trans-border crimes, unauthorized entry or exit and smuggling.

Wartime Mandate

  • Holding ground in less threatened areas
  • Protection of vital installations, particularly airfields
  • Strengthening the main defence line at strong points
  • Assistance in control of refugees
  • Guarding Prisoners of War
  • Maintaining law and order in the enemy territory controlled by the Indian Army. 
  • Prevent infiltration in certain areas.

Note: Punjab Government accused some of the BSF officials of facilitating the entry of drugs from Pakistan to Punjab. In West Bengal, BSF officers have been accused of facilitating cow smuggling across the border to Bangladesh.

4. Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) 

  • ITBP was raised in 1962 in the wake of the Indo-China war. It was initially raised under CRPF Act. Later, ITBPF Act was enacted in 1994 and rules were framed. 
  • ITBP was originally conceptualized as an integrated ‘guerrilla-cum-intelligence-cum-fighting Force’, self-contained in supplies, communication and intelligence collection. It has evolved over time into a conventional border-guarding force.
  • ITBP is a multi-dimensional force. It is a mountain-trained force manned by professionally trained mountaineers. 
  • ITBP is deployed from Karakoram Pass to Jechapla Pass in difficult hilly terrain at forward border posts at altitudes ranging from 9000-18000 feet. 
  • They are called “Himveers“.

Mandate and Tasks

  • Keep vigil on the Indo-China border.
  • Detection & prevention of border violations & promotion of a sense of security among the locals on the Indo-China border
  • Check illegal immigration, trans–border smuggling and crimes.
  • Providing security to sensitive installations, banks and protected persons. Presently, it is providing security to Rashtrapati Bhawan, Rumtek Monastery (Sikkim), Tihar Jail (Delhi), LBSNAA and various sensitive installations in Chandigarh & Jammu. 
  • Restore law and order and peace in an area after disturbance. 
  • ITBP is also deployed in Afghanistan to provide security to the Indian Embassy in Kabul.
  • ITBP is also involved in the movement for the preservation of the Himalayan environment & ecology.

5. Assam Rifles

  • Assam Rifles are known as the ‘friends of hill people’ because Assam Rifles have participated in many developmental activities of the northeast.
  • It was raised in 1835 as Cacher Levy and is the oldest Police Force in India. 
  • It is headquartered in Shillong and works under the operational control of the Army.
  • When formed, it had an armed strength of 750 men, which has been increased to 63,000 personnel.
  • Earlier, it was under the control of the Ministry of External Affairs but was later changed to be under the control of the Ministry of Home Affairs post-1965. 


When formed under the British Raj, its original mandate was to protect the British Tea Estates, along with settlements, from raids of the NE tribes. With passage of time, its mandate has been changed to

  • Maintaining internal security in North-Eastern States.
  • Guarding Indo-Myanmar Border.


  • Control Structure: Assam Rifles has dual control structure, i.e. it is under the operational control of the Indian Army (i.e. Ministry of Defence) and administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). All the senior officers, including the head of the force, are from Indian Army, while MHA provides the salary and infrastructure.
  • Dual Mandate: Due to the dual mandate of guarding the Indo-Myanmar border and maintaining peace in the North East, Assam Rifle is unable to do both works professionally. Government should first strengthen the security of the border by either giving the Assam Rifles the single mandate of guarding the border or deploying another border guarding force such as the Border Security Force(BSF). In 2017, Parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs, in its report, suggested the transfer of Indo-Myanmar Border Management to Border Guard Forces (BGF)

6. National Security Guard (NSG)

  • It was raised in 1984 as Federal Contingency Deployment Force to fight against terrorism and protect the states against internal disturbances.
  • It operates under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • NSG is a unique amalgamation of selected personnel from the Army, the Central Armed Police Forces & State Police Forces.
  • Because of the colour of the uniform that the personnel wear, they are popularly referred to as Black Cats.
  • NSG (Black Cats) are specially trained for room-to-room interventions, whereas Army is specialized in Open Combat. They will be more effective in fighting terrorists. Their weapons are more sophisticated and ideal for such fights.
  • NSG Commandos are usually deployed to deal with high-risk tasks like Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar and Hotel Taj and Oberoi in Mumbai.


  • Neutralise highly specialized terrorist attacks like aeroplane hijacks and hostage rescue operations.
  • Provide training to other forces on bomb disposal technology.  
  • NSG provide ‘close protection’ to the VIPs.
  • In Delhi, they are always kept on alert to meet any emergency.


  • It is criticized for the delayed response to the crisis. For example, NSG took 10 hours to respond to the 26/11 crisis.
  • The NSG Headquarters is manned by a mix of personnel from all the forces with different cultural and professional outlooks leading to coordination challenges.
  • The organization is headed by Director General belonging to the IPS with limited practical experience in counter-terror operations.
  • NSG continues to be marred by a shortage of cutting-edge equipment and training aids.

Special Protection Group (SPG)

  • It is a sub-group of the National Security Guard (NSG). 
  • SPG was raised in 1985 with the goal of giving providing proximate security cover to the PM and his immediate family members. Additionally, it provides security cover to the former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members for a period of five years from the day he ceases to hold office. 
  • It was formed on the recommendation of the Birbal Nath Committee. 
  • NSG also provide proximate security to VVIPs and their immediate family.
  • They are drawn from police and NSG commandos.
  • They are trained like US Secret Service.

7. Railway Protection Force (RPF)

  • Railway Protection Force draws power from Railway Protection Force Act and Railways Act.
  • Its mandate is to
    1. Protect railway property, passenger and passenger area.
    2. Remove any obstruction hindering the movement of the railway. 
  • It is different from the Railway Police, a branch of state police & responsible for preventing & investigating crimes on the railway & within railway premises.

8. Sashastra Seema Bal

  • It was formed in 1963 as Special Service Bureau (SSB) to build up the morale & capability of the border population and prevent subversion, infiltration and sabotage across the border.
  • It was renamed from Special Service Bureau to Sashastra Seema Bal (in 2001).
  • Presently, it has the responsibility to guard Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Border
  • They are also deployed for election duties & internal security duty in Jammu and Kashmir and the naxal-affected areas in Jharkhand, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

9. National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)

  • Disaster Management Act was passed in 2005, and NDRF was formed under the provisions of the act in the wake of the Gujarat Earthquake & Odisha Super Cyclone. 
  • It was made from 8 battalions, 2 each drawn from ITBP, CRPF, BSF & CISF. Presently, it has 10 battalions.


  • Provide specialized response during disasters.
  • Conduct rehearsals and mock drills
  • Train State Disaster Response Teams
  • Create awareness among people about different disasters

Topic: NDRF getting discriminatory attitude

  • Sacrifices not recognized & awarded: E.g., in the Uttarakhand disaster of 2013, 14 personnel died in the Mi-17 Helicopter crash. 5 from Airforce got Shaurya & Kirti Chakra, while 9 from NDRF got nothing.
  • Lack of Funds: NDRF is the only specialized force of its kind in the world but is deprived of funds, infra & logistical support. The question arises, what is the use of creating this if no fund is to be given? 
  • Less Remuneration: Their remuneration is less than what their counterparts get in CRPF or BSF. Nothing is given in the name of the hazard fund. As a result, nobody is ready to come to this force from the parent organization.
  • No Disability Pension: NDRF personnel are constantly required to train in simulated conditions of hazards & at the time, they end up losing their life, but there is no disability pension.

Other Problems

  • Ambiguity in control and command: Ministry of Home Affairs controls the funds of NDRF while National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), an autonomous body, has administrative control over it. Hence, it has to deal with two bosses.

Issues with CAPF (in general)

  1. Bureaucratization of Armed Forces: Most of the higher posts of the top hierarchy are filled by IPS officers, who, most of the time, fail to take adequate steps for the welfare of the cadre officers. These organizations have a primarily military character; therefore, a civil service like the IPS has no valuable role to play in them.
  2. Absence of a robust in-house grievance redressal mechanism: This has prompted incidents such as a soldier from BSF in 2017 using Social Media to raise his concerns. 
  3. Stepmotherly Treatment by Government: Paramilitary forces allege stepmotherly treatment done by the government compared to the military. They get
    • Lesser pay than military counterparts
    • No martyr status 
    • No One Rank One Pension.
  4. Sahayak/Buddy system:  Under this system, soldiers are forced to do personal chores for seniors.
  5. There is a lack of effective arms and ammunition such as bullet-proof jackets, modern weapons, surveillance equipment, armoured vehicles etc.
  6. CAPF is overburdened by doing the job of both the army and the police. E.g., CAPF personnel guard the borders and also battle terrorists and insurgents.  
  7. Poor working conditions like no housing facilities, poor food and low allowances add to problems. Due to bad working conditions, the number of personnel opting for voluntary retirement schemes in the CAPF rose by 450% in 2016-17, according to the Home Ministry.
  8. They are devoid of justice as Armed Forces Tribunal does not cover them.   

According to the NCRB data, as many as 2,200 CAPF personnel died in accidents and suicides from 2014-2018. It points towards the fact that something is seriously wrong with CAPF.

Way forward

  • CAPF personnel should get better dispute resolution, communication facilities in field areas, yoga etc.
  • IPS hegemony over the CAPF should be ended. 
  • Some of the demands of the paramilitary forces are legitimate at face value and should be considered e.g. 
    • A Military Service Pay 
    • Timely career promotion
    • Martyr status if they die while fighting.     
  • There is a need for a separate grievance redressal mechanism and a separate tribunal for paramilitary forces on the lines of the Armed Forces Tribunal. 
  • For parity in allowance, “one area, one allowance” should be implemented, i.e., military and CAPF personnel deployed in the same area should get the same allowance. 
  • Government should set up an R&D wing specifically to design weapons and vehicles for CAPF due to the unique challenges faced by them.

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