The Union home ministry has rushed to defuse a backlash over a planned suspension of CRPF troops’ “ration allowance”, with the bizarre defence that the personnel had enough ready cash because they had been paid three years’ arrears in July.
The CRPF more or less echoed the statement of the home ministry, to which the central paramilitary force reports.
Neither the home ministry nor the central force denied the key disclosure in the front-page report in Sunday’s edition of The Telegraph, which quoted an internal note the CRPF had sent to all its formations saying the allowance would not be paid from September because there were no “reserve funds”.
According to the September 13 note, the home ministry was yet to release a tranche of Rs 800 crore despite reminders in July, August and early this month.
The ministry said the “ration allowance for this month will be paid shortly”.
A CRPF statement on Sunday said the “process” for paying the allowance “for this month is in progress”.
Referring to the arrears payment, the home ministry’s “clarification” said: “On account of the revision of ration money allowance made by MHA on 12.7.2019, Rs 22,144 per head ration money (arrears) was paid to around 2 lakh CRPF personnel who are drawing RMA. In this way CRPF troops have already received an amount of Rs 22,144 as ration money in July which is equivalent to 6 months RMA (at present rates) and thus they have sufficient funds for messing.”
It added: “(The) contention that jawans have run out of ration money is baseless and preposterous and there is no crisis whatsoever. The RMA for September will also be paid shortly.”
The home ministry did not explain why it had not released the funds despite three reminders.
Such was the haste with which the ministry issued the statement that its figure of arrears did not match that of the CRPF. While the ministry put the amount at Rs 22,144 per head, The Telegraph had reported an arrears payment of Rs 22,194. The CRPF, in a statement issued on Sunday after the home ministry statement, echoed the figure mentioned by this newspaper and put it at Rs 22,194.
The home ministry said the arrears were paid to 2 lakh CRPF personnel but sources said the actual figure was 3 lakh.
This newspaper’s report had only highlighted the planned suspension of the allowance; it did not say anything about the jawans having “run out of ration money”. Quoting from the CRPF’s own circular, the report had said the CRPF did not have cash to pay the allowance after clearing the arrears of Rs 22,194 per head.
The CRPF said on Sunday: “The document states that ration money (RM) arrear(s) of Rs 22,194 has been paid to all in July which is more than 6 times their monthly RM. Process for payment of RM (approx Rs 3,600) for this month is in progress, hence the contention that jawans have run out of ration money is incorrect.”
All non-gazetted CRPF personnel — constables, head constables, assistant sub-inspectors, sub-inspectors and inspectors — receive the ration allowance.
“It’s a ridiculous argument to say this arrears payment has armed the jawans with enough cash for six months’ rations,” a senior CRPF officer said.
He said the government had not done the troops any favour by clearing their dues. “Can the government then stop salaries after paying arrears?”
The dues stemmed from the government raising the ration allowance from about Rs 3,000 to roughly Rs 3,600 in 2016 but holding back the extra amount for three years.
The CRPF officer added that the leak of the force’s internal note and the media report had “rattled” the government. “Senior ministry officials today assured us the funds would be released soon.”
He said the ministry had asked the force’s top brass to order an inquiry and find out who had leaked the note.