The country's front line security force against terror threats at civilian airports and strategic nuclear and aerospace installations, the Central Industrial Security Force, is working without a regular chief for over a month as the centre is yet to appoint a director general.
The about 1.80-lakh personnel strong force has been without a regular DG since January 22 after serving chief O P Singh was repatriated to his cadre, on the request of the Uttar Pradesh government, and appointed the state's director general of police.
The process of decision-making and making large policy moves in the force has slowed down owing to the absence of the designated chief, official sources said.
"This is not a healthy precedent at all and it is happening again and again in the Central Armed Police Forces. This shows that the government has utter disregard for the importance of such an important paramilitary force," retired IPS officer Prakash Singh told PTI.
Singh, who has served as the director general of police of the Uttar Pradesh and the Border Security Force, has been an advocate for police reforms in the country and the Supreme Court, acting on his petitions, had issued guidelines on the subject.
"Not only policy making and decisions but the entire organisation suffers in the absence of a full-time chief. I do not know what is the problem in appointing a regular CISF chief when there is a pool of eligible IPS officers available to chose from," he said.
Sources in the Union home ministry said the process of appointing the CISF chief is ongoing since the last month.
"It is not at all good to keep a large and important paramilitary force like the CISF headless for such a long time.
"Last year, the government appointed the new CRPF DG after a delay of two months, during which the force suffered two major reverses in anti-Naxal operations," a senior official in the security establishment said.
The CRPF lost 38 troops in two deadly Maoist ambushes in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district when it was without a regular chief, and after these incidents senior IPS officer R R Bhatnagar was quickly appointed the new DG.
"Do we keep the defence forces headless like this? The CAPFs are a very vital cog in the internal security establishment and such delays should be avoided," a senior paramilitary officer said.
The Central Industrial Security Force guards 59 civil airports of the country apart from a number of vital and strategic installations in the nuclear energy and aerospace domain and is a very active force operationally.
A number of government buildings such as central ministries in Delhi, power plants and coal mines across the country are also under its security cover.
"It is not that the force is failing on any count in the present times but having a regular DG ensures that the final responsibility and accountability of the organisation is on the officer in command," the senior officer of the security establishment quoted above said.
In the absence of a regular CISF chief, Additional DG of the force A K Pateria is handling the top charge in an additional capacity.
Sources said while a panel of names of eligible 1983 and 1984 batch Indian Police Service officers has been prepared, nothing has moved after that.
As per procedure, the home ministry after preparing the panel, sends the names to the appointments committee of the cabinet headed by the prime minister which will clears and declares the name of the new DG.
"Hopefully, the decision should come sooner than later and a repeat of the last year incident of hurriedly appointing the CRPF DG does not occur," the paramilitary officer said.
The 49th Raising Day of the force is also approaching early next month and if an appointment is not made by then, it would be the first time that the annual event of the paramilitary will be held without a regular DG in-charge, he said.