Discomfort in MHA over RPF staff union activities
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Organaising public demonstrations, making "provocative speeches", hobnobbing with political parties, including BJP, and extending support to Anna Hazare's movement — the activities of the staff union of the Railway Protection Force are being watched with some concern in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
The RPF, whose mandate is to guard railway properties, is the only Central armed police organisation allowed to have a staff union — it is called the All India Railway Protection Force Association. Like in the case of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, certain restrictions on the fundamental rights of speech and to form associations — or to align with a political cause — apply to all Central paramilitary forces such as CRPF, BSF, CISF and others in the interest of smooth functioning of the command and control structure.
The exemption to RPF — made through an executive decision in 1998 — is now being questioned.
"It is a matter of concern that an armed police organisation should have union or staff association. It has been like that for RPF for some time and there is an alternate view whether such a situation should be allowed to continue," said a senior MHA official.
In fact, an internal assessment has recommended that the association be "de-recognised" and the RPF be put under the administrative control of the MHA, just like every other Central armed police organisation. It has said the "unbridled freedom" exercised by the RPF association was dangerous not just for its own discipline and professionalism but also likely to "infect" the other armed police forces.
Sources said rethink on the exemption to RPF had been prompted by some specific instances where the association had been found to be involved in issues "extraneous to its professed charter". They claimed that the association invited BJP leaders to its seminar in Lucknow last year. Later, one of its members is alleged to have forcibly stopped a passenger train for 10 minutes at a station in Gujarat to show solidarity with Hazare's anti-corruption movement.
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