New Delhi: Over 2,000 non-combatised personnel of border guarding force – SSB – have been finally ordered to be moved to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) as part of an ambitious central government plan to bolster the internal snoop agency’s on-ground presence at Indian borders, especially along China and Nepal.
A 12 October order issued by the Union home ministry directs that a total of 2,104 posts of the civilian component of the force, often dubbed as the ‘dying’ cadre, will be transferred to the IB “immediately”. Few of these posts are not occupied at present.
The unique move was in the making for the last few years after National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval had in June 2016 written to the then Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi underlining the need to effectively utilise this manpower for “enhancing” border security gathering better intelligence.
The ministry has now ordered that out of the total 24 cadres of this personnel in the SSB (Sashastra Seema Bal), 19 will be sent to the IB.
“These cadres will get integrated with relevant and comparable cadres of IB. They will be governed by service conditions of IB after transfer from SSB,” the ministry order said.
A blueprint prepared in this context said that this cadre, which is trained, experienced and well acquainted with the border areas, could be effectively used to upgrade country’s intelligence generation and gathering capability along 15,000-km of its border.
In addition, the blueprint said, the personnel could undertake tasks aimed at generating nationalist sentiments among the border population, as in the past.
A senior official privy to the development said the future tasking of this personnel would be charted over a period of next few months and both the central agencies will “mutually decide the detailed implementation modalities including those related to transfer of assets of the Sashastra Seema Bal to the IB.”
A small component of 94 posts, spread across five cadres, will be retained by the SSB, the order said.
The decision was made after Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba early this month held a meeting on the subject with IB Director Rajiv Jain and newly appointed SSB Director General S S Deswal and after review of the subject, the home ministry flagged it green.
The news agency had first reported in September last year that the proposal is a work in progress and 2,765 posts of the civilian cadre of the SSB will be shifted to the IB in the coming days.
Since then, few people have retired leaving about 2,198 posts, out of which 2,104 are now being transferred.
This manpower of the civil wing of the SSB is termed as “dying” as it does not have any substantial promotional and work avenues after SSB was declared an armed force in 2001. Last year, the SSB has sanctioned a full-fledged intelligence wing which is manned by combat personnel.
Officials had earlier said that the plan of the security establishment is to use the services of this personnel to strengthen the IB’s presence, especially on the eastern border front along China, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, where these officials have worked for long.
The men and women of this cadre were seen as fast losing their sheen as they were not getting timely promotions and could not opt for combat posts as their physical fitness did not allow them to perform arduous tasks and their recruitment rules were different from those of the uninformed staffers.
The average age of the personnel in this cadre is about 50 years.
Their task was to help the border population in integrating with the mainstream, and also act as the “eyes and ears” of the SSB, the designated lead intelligence agency along open Indian frontiers with Nepal and Bhutan.
The cadre was first raised in 1963, in the aftermath of the Chinese aggression of the previous year, to work in the border areas and promote a sense of national belonging and pro-India feelings among the local population and till 2001, they were called as the Special Service Bureau.
The name of the force was changed to Sashastra Seema Bal in 2003, following the 1999 Kargil conflict. It was then tasked with guarding the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders on the country’s eastern flank.
The SSB, with a strength of about 80,000 personnel, has been guarding the 1,751-km Indo-Nepal border since 2001 and the 699-km Indo-Bhutan border since 2004.