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CRPF shoots liquor curb
- Circular surprise after crackdown on alcoholism among jawans

New Delhi, Oct. 26: The CRPF wants its personnel to be bottle-happy though an internal study has identified excessive drinking as a key reason behind fratricidal killings in the force.

In a circular on October 3, the CRPF brass asked all units and offices to procure their full quota of liquor for personnel — a practice many commandants had stopped following an earlier instruction in January to curb drinking in the force.

The move has left many commandants puzzled. “The new circular is uncalled for at a time we are trying to keep a check on procurement and supply of liquor, especially among jawans,” a senior officer said.

Another officer said: “Firing incidents by jawans after drinking is on the rise. This is why we are trying to identify personnel who are addicted to alcohol so we can keep an eye on them. Making alcohol easily available to the jawans means asking for more trouble.”

CRPF director-general (DG) Pranay Sahay did not respond to this newspaper’s queries. Sahay was formally appointed CRPF head last week but has been in charge of the force since the previous DG, K. Vijay Kumar, retired on September 30.

Home ministry figures show that 64 cases of “fragging” — a US army term for a trooper killing or attempting to kill a senior officer — and 450-odd suicides were reported within the CRPF between 2007 and 2011.

“Stress and fatigue, domestic discord, financial problems, extramarital relationships of wives are the main reasons for the large number of suicides but mental illness and alcohol addiction are reasons for fratricides,” a CRPF survey report had said in January-February last year.

In January this year, the then additional director-general (operations), P.M Nair, wrote to the force’s four zonal headquarters saying the commandants needed to address the problem of alcoholism in the ranks. Nair is now out of the CRPF and heads the National Disaster Response Force.

“It appears that the liquor being issued to personnel is consumed in barracks and in isolation. More often, verbal duels and personal issues crop up in such situations,” the letter said.

“Therefore, it would be advisable that consumption of issued liquor be permitted only in a common mess and in the presence of competent supervisory officials.”

Nair had several other instructions for the commandants:

Ensure a roll call after dinner to stop personnel sneaking out and drinking outside camps.

Identify habitual drinkers and keep an eye on them.

Keep a list of teetotallers so that canteens do not issue liquor in their names.

Stop personnel from buying liquor from shops.

Use your discretion to curb the supply of liquor to subordinates.

Following this, many commandants virtually stopped providing liquor to jawans, especially those known to be habitual drunkards.

The latest circular is not the only flip-flop on liquor by the CRPF brass in recent times. In mid-2011, months after the survey blamed alcoholism for fragging, the force had actually increased the liquor quota for officers and the ranks.

Under the old quota (standing order 80/2001), a senior officer was entitled to three bottles of whisky, brandy or wine and six bottles of beer a month, whereas subordinate officers and jawans were entitled to half a bottle of whisky, brandy or wine and three bottles of beer a month.

The new quota raised the quarterly (three-monthly) entitlement of hard liquor (not including beer) to 14 bottles for special and additional DGs, 12 bottles for inspectors-general and deputy inspectors-general, 10 bottles for commandants, six bottles for inspectors and sub-inspectors and four bottles for jawans.

The new quota was followed till Nair’s letter. The latest circular, however, asks commandants to revert to the old quota while insisting it be implemented in full.

“Still, the new circular ensures that liquor will continue to flow uninterrupted,” an officer complained.

He, however, defended the supply of alcohol to jawans deployed at high altitudes. Those posted at altitudes of 9,000 feet or above are provided liquor 25 days a month.