December 15, 2021
To: either/view subscribers
Good morning. When you go shopping for clothes, you try them on before buying them. How about the same for a job, but in a slightly different way? MGM Resorts is letting job applicants try out the job in VR before accepting the role. The aim is that it will reduce employee attrition. The company will roll out these VR headsets at its employment centres and job fairs. The technology will be used for front-of-house roles like operating casino games and checking guests into hotels.
📰 FEATURE STORY
The Assam Rifles: Who’s unit is it anyway?
It’s common knowledge that too many cooks spoil the broth. Which broth? The big canteen-style spicy broth that is Indian defence. While we’ve been busy living our lives, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and our Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) have been fighting each other for sole control over the Assam Rifles. Yes, the same Assam Rifles who were involved in the recent killings in Nagaland.
The thing is, both the MHA and the MoD are partly in charge of the paramilitary force. The MHA takes care of admin while the MoD, operations. And clearly, this structure isn’t working anymore. Both ministries and voices within the Assam Rifles have been calling for a change in control. It’s just the matter of who’s going to have that control that’s busy brewing controversy.
The Assam Rifles have been around since the British Raj. In 1870, it was expanded and called the Assam Military Police Battalion. While it was mostly used to enforce law and order in the Northeast, during World War 1, the battalion also took part in major British battles overseas. After noticing that this paramilitary force was capable of much more than just policing, its name was changed to the Assam Rifles to indicate that it was at par with Army units.
Post-independence, it was really after the Sino-Indian War in 1962 that the Assam Rifles was brought under the MoD’s “operational control”. Before this, the battalion, just like the other five Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), was solely under the MHA’s administrative control. The MoD just got added to that. This means that, as of now, “salaries and infrastructure for the force are provided by the MHA, but the deployment, posting, transfer and deputation of the personnel is decided by the Army.”
Out of all the CAPFs, the Assam Rifles is the only one run like this and that’s become a problem. Seeing that the Assam Rifles is in charge of guarding the Indo-Myanmar border, the Army believes that it’s only reasonable that they keep control of it. But the MHA seems to be more ‘big picture’ oriented. Back in 2019, they even called for it to be merged with the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to facilitate a more comprehensive view of our defence.
The MHA’s side of the argument
Whether it’s you trying to reach your fitness goals or writing major policy, there’s one thing we can be sure of – consistency is key. This is what the MHA seems to harp on when it comes to the Assam Rifles. India currently has six CAPFs, including the Assam Rifles. None of the other CAPFs has required shared custody, so why start now? This has been a major issue between the MHA and the MoD since the change happened in the ‘60s. The MHA believes that having the Assam Rifles under them doesn’t just make things easier from a bureaucratic point of view, it also better integrates the efforts of our border forces.
According to sources at the MHA, the Assam Rifles still run on the patterns set back in the ‘60s. The situation at our borders has drastically changed since then. And even our training given to army personnel has evolved. Before, army men that were trained in places other than our borders didn’t really know how to handle hilly terrains. Obviously, this has changed over the years and with that, went the need to have it remain close to the MoD. Now, the focus is on creating a solid system of defence at the border and looking at the MHA’s hopes for an ITBP-Assam Rifles merger, this just makes the most sense.
From an administrative point of view, the Assam Rifles are run like any CAPF under the MHA. This means that recruitment, perks, promotions and retirement policies of the paramilitary force are dictated by the MHA. And just like the other CAPFs, the retirement age is set at 60 years. In the Army, this gets drastically reduced to that of 35 years. In most cases, this simply isn’t enough to sustain an individual for the rest of their lives. Recently, CAPF officers have also been granted Non-Functional Financial Upgradations (NFFUs). This means that, at least financially, the issue of stagnancy has been lifted. All of this goes away under the MoD.
The MoD’s side of the argument
The Army is pretty clear about this – why fix what isn’t broken? For years, the Army has worked in close coordination with the Assam Rifles and both parties have done rather well because of it. Giving the MHA complete control all of a sudden is bound to have some serious implications along the Indian borders. In fact, a petition filed by the Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association even states that “its categorisation as a police force was arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of the rights of its personnel.” As far as the MoD is concerned, the Assam Rifles is a military force; more accurately, a paramilitary force.
Bringing up the proposed ITBP-Assam Rifles merger, many believe that there is little to be benefitted from it. According to Major General (retd.) Harsha Kakar, “When you try and merge them, you break the structure of both organisations. You want to convert a paramilitary into a CAPF; what you are doing is that you are actually downgrading it.” Given that the MHA refuses to involve the Army in the workings of the ITBP, coordination difficulties are bound to happen. Several officials from the MoD have pointed out that this will surely end up confusing the forces and thus, “jeopardise national security”.
From within the Assam Rifles, a large section wants the MoD to gain full control of the unit. Why? Because of “perks and retirement benefits”. The idea here is that all the perks enjoyed by the Army would be given to the Assam Rifles officers as well. And since the work done by the personnel belonging to both parties is practically the same, it would be more than fair for them to receive such benefits. Besides, the MoD has already pointed out the Assam Rifles’ importance when it comes to the Army. According to them, having the Assam Rifles cover a lot of the Army’s work has let the latter focus on its “core strengths”.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Modi and His Brand of Hindutva Are Direct Descendants of the British Raj and its Policies
For the Left:
Why the Majestic Kashi Vishwanath Corridor is a Hindu Project for the Ages
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Maradona memorabilia (Assam) – After Diego Maradona’s stolen Hublot watch turned up in Assam, other memorabilia of his have also been found. It included a jacket, shoes, another watch, and a squash racket among others. They were seized from Wazid Hussain, who was arrested for stealing the watch from Maradona’s home in Dubai. Police also searched his in-law’s home, where he was believed to be living. According to his family members, he returned from Dubai three months ago.
Revival of Koshur through hip-hop (Kashmir) – In the valley, a renewed wave of hip-hop culture, referred to as conscious Koshur hip-hop is gaining traction. Over the past decade, technological progress has democratised both content creation and consumption through platforms like Facebook and YouTube. The use of a local language in rap songs has gone hand in hand with increased digital penetration. It has assured content creators of more localised audiences, especially when Koshur has become extinct in urban areas.
Most valuable company (Karnataka) – According to the ‘2021 Burgundy Private Hurun India 500’, Infosys is Karnataka’s most valued company at ₹7.51 lakh crores, followed by Wipro and BYJU’s. The total value of the top 10 companies in the state grew by 87% to ₹16.2 lakh crores. The list is dominated by companies in software & services and financial services. The list is compiled by Axis Bank’s Private Banking Business and Hurun India.
Digital health IDs (Chhattisgarh) – The state was ranked first in preparing digital health IDs under the Health Ministry’s ‘Azadi ka Amrit Utsav’. The IDs were prepared by state-run Health and Wellness Centres between November 16 and December 12. In total, more than 53,000 IDs were prepared by the state, accounting for 35% of all such IDs in the country.
100-hour ‘Samaydaan’ campaign (Gujarat) – The state government has announced a 100-hour campaign in more than 43,000 government and private primary schools to make up for the learning lost during the pandemic. The Samaydaan campaign will take place from December 2021 till April 15, 2022. More than two lakh teachers will donate 100 hours each in addition to their school hours. Each school will organise its additional hours before and after regular classes. The government has appealed to retired teachers and local training graduates to assist in this effort.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹1.08 crore – The value of khadi denim fabric bought by US-based fashion brand Patagonia. It comes in the wake of an agreement between Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) and textile major Arvind Mills for the trade of Khadi denim products across the world.