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Security Forces and Agencies

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

The security forces which handle different threats in India are classified into:

  1. Indian Armed Forces
  2. Paramilitary Forces of India and
  3. Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)

Armed Forces/Defence Forces/Military

  • In general, the term “Defence forces of India” means forces that are mandated to defend the country against external threats.
  • The Government of India is responsible for ensuring the defence of India and every part thereof. The Supreme Command of the Indian Armed Forces vests in the President.
  • The responsibility for national defence rests with the Cabinet. This is discharged through the Ministry of Defence, which provides the policy framework and wherewithal to the Armed Forces to discharge their responsibilities in the context of the defence of the country.
  • The Indian Armed Forces comprise three divisions
    • Indian Army
    • Indian Navy
    • Indian Air Force

Indian Army

  • The Indian Army, became operational after the Country gained independence from British colonialism.
  • The Indian Army’s HQ is located in New Delhi and functions under the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), who is responsible for the command, control, and administration as a whole.
  • The Army is divided into six operational commands (field armies) and one training command, each under the command of a Lieutenant General, who has an equal status to the Vice-Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), working under the control of Army HQ in New Delhi.


  • Indian Army (IA) is committed to the defence of the country from external and internal threats across the entire spectrum of warfare.
  • Indian Army also provides aid during disaster situations through various operations like Operation Surya Hope (Uttarakhand floods), and Operation Megh Rahat (Jammu Kashmir Flood in 2014).
  • The government of India also contributes its army personnel for United Nations peace-making operations in different countries.

Indian Air Force

  • The Indian Air Force was officially established on 8th October 1932, and on 1st April 1954, Air Marshal Subroto Mukherjee, one of the founding members of the Air Force took over as the first Indian Chief of Air Staff.
  • With the passage of time, the Indian Air Force undertook massive upgrading of its aircraft and equipment, and as part of the process, it introduced more than twenty new types of aircraft.
  • The last decade of the twentieth century saw a phenomenal change in the structure of the Indian Air Force with the induction of women into the Air Force for short service commissions.
  • Creating history, for the first time in the year 2016 three female pilots — Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh were inducted into the Indian Air Force fighter squadron.


  • The Indian Air Force, similarly, aims to overwhelm the adversaries with the application of aerospace power in the defence of the nation.
  • The Union War Book mandates the Indian Air Force as being the sole agency responsible for air defence of the Indian airspace.
  • With Air Defence elements being provided to Army and Navy as well, seamless integration and free flow of information is an inescapable need.

Indian Navy

  • The foundation of the modern Indian Navy was laid in the seventeenth century when the East India Company had established a maritime force, thereby graduating in time to the establishment of the Royal Indian Navy in 1934.
  • The Headquarters of the Indian Navy is located in New Delhi and is under the command of the Chief of the naval staff – an Admiral.
  • The Indian navy is deployed under three area commands, each headed by a flag officer.
  • The Western Naval Command is headquartered in Bombay on the Arabian Sea; the Southern Naval Command in Kochi (Cochin), in Kerala, also on the Arabian Sea; and the Eastern Naval Command in Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, on the Bay of Bengal.


  • The Indian Navy is responsible for a full range of operations in which a nation’s naval forces may be involved is vast, ranging from high-intensity warfighting at one end to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations at the other end.
  • Its major objective is the Security of India’s territorial integrity, citizens and offshore assets from sea-borne threats.

Paramilitary Forces

  • The term Paramilitary forces is not formally used. Informally, “Paramilitary Forces” refers to three organisations which assist the Indian Armed Forces very closely and are led by officers of the Indian Army or Indian Navy.
  • Earlier, the term “paramilitary” forces were used for eight forces viz. Assam Rifles, Indian Coast Guard, Special Frontier Force, CRPF, BSF, ITBP, CISF, SSB.
  • However, from 2011, paramilitary forces refer to Assam Rifles, Indian Coast Guard and Special Frontier Force.

Assam Rifles (AR)

  • Established in 1835, Assam Rifles (AR) is the oldest of all paramilitary forces. There are currently 46 battalions of AR under the Ministry of Home Affairs. AR’s job is to counter insurgency and hold border security operations. Since 2002, they are also guarding the 1,643 km long Indo-Myanmar border.

Indian Coast Guard

  • The Indian Coast Guard was established in 1978 by the Coast Guard Act, of 1978 as an independent Armed force of India. It works under the Ministry of Defence.


  • Safety and Protection of Artificial Islands and Offshore Terminals
  • Protection of Fishermen
  • Assistance to Fishermen in Distress at Sea
  • Preservation and Protection of the Marine Environment
  • Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution
  • Assisting the Customs and other authorities in antismuggling operations
  • Enforcement of Maritime Laws in Force

Special Frontier Forces (SFF)

  • The Special Frontier Force (SFF) is one of the paramilitary forces.
  • It was created on November 1962 in the backdrop of the Sino-Indian war.
  • It aimed to conduct covert operations behind Chinese lines.
  • The force is under the direct supervision of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency.

Central Armed Police Forces

Central Armed Police Forces were formerly referred to as Paramilitary Forces. In March 2011, the Ministry of Home Affairs adopted a uniform nomenclature of Central Armed Police Forces to avoid confusion. There are seven central armed police forces. Each of these forces performs a separate function. They operate under the Ministry of Home affairs.

Each of the forces is led by an IPS officer with the notable exception of the Assam Rifles which is headed by an Army officer of the rank of Lieutenant General.

The term “paramilitary forces” in India has not been defined in any act of parliament or by the authorities. Since 2011, the Government of India uses an unofficial definition that the Paramilitary forces are the ones that assist the military forces and are headed by Military officers, not by IPS officers.

Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)

  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is the premier central police force of the Union of India for internal security.
  • Originally constituted as the Crown Representative Police in 1939, it is one of the oldest Central para-military forces (now termed as Central Armed Police Force).
  • CRPF was raised as a sequel to the political unrest and the agitations in the then princely States of India following the Madras Resolution of the All-India Congress Committee in 1936 and the ever-growing desire of the Crown Representative to help the vast majority of the native States to preserve law and order as a part of the imperial policy.
  • After Independence, the force was renamed as Central Reserve Police Force by an Act of Parliament on December 28, 1949. This Act constituted CRPF as an armed force of the Union.
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the then Home Minister, visualised a multi-dimensional role for it in tune with the changing needs of a newly independent nation.
  • The strategic anti-Naxal operations command headquarters of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been shifted back from Kolkata to Raipur. The recent decision was taken at the backdrop of an ambush in the Sukma district that killed 37 jawans of the paramilitary force.
  • The primary mission of the Central Reserve Police Force is counter-insurgency operations.
  • It also assists the State and Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order. Apart from this, the force participates as a police force in the UN peacekeeping missions.
  • The CRPF maintains a special operation unit known as Commando Battalion for Resolute Action(COBRA) to combat Maoist insurgents.

Reasons for Frequent Ambush by Naxalites

  • Not following SOP (Standard Operating Procedure): According to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), the force should get divided into smaller groups of four or five, so that if an ambush takes place, minimal casualties get infected. But like Dantewada in the 2010 and 2013 attacks, a large number of jawans were in a group, and the Maoist took advantage of the situation.
  • Lack of coordination which invites intelligence faux passes: Lack of coordination between the agencies of State and the Centre has also been the cause of casualty to security forces.
  • Guerrilla war in Jungles: Various security experts time and again have pointed it out that CRPF is neither equipped nor it’s trained to take on Maoist who know the jungles and the warfare well. The CoBRA battalion — an elite force within CRPF, that is efficiently trained for this purpose eight battalions deployed in Bastar.
  • Poor Infrastructure: The state government has not been successful in providing better infrastructure to CRPF for Maoist operations. According to sources, out of 425 sanctioned police stations in Chhattisgarh, only 403 exist; out of which 161 don’t have vehicles.
  • Foreign Links: According to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ reply in the Lok Sabha, the Naxals have links with Maoist groups operating in the Philippines, Turkey and Europe.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)

  • Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) was established in 1969, under an Act of Parliament, “Central Industrial Security Force Act, 1968.”
  • In a span of four decades, the Force has grown several folds. CISF has become a premier multi-skilled security agency of the country, mandated to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas.
  • CISF is currently providing security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and ever heritage monuments.
  • Among the important responsibilities recently entrusted to the CISF are the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, VIP Security, Disaster Management and the establishment of a Formed Police Unit (FPU) of the UN in Haiti.
  • CISF is also responsible to provide protection to the persons classified as Z Plus, Z, X, Y.
  • CISF is the only force with a customized and dedicated fire wing.
  • CISF is a compensatory cost force.

Border Security Force (BSF)

  • The Border Security Force (BSF) is a Border Guarding Force of India.
  • The BSF is the border guard of the country and is called the ‘India’s First Line of Defence’.
  • This Union Government Agency under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs came into being in the wake of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. It was established on 1st December 1965.
  • It is a paramilitary force charged with guarding India’s land border during peacetime and preventing transnational crime.
  • It is a Union Government Agency under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It is one of many law enforcement agencies in India.
  • It ensures the security of the borders of India and is headed by an officer from the Indian Police Service.
  • It currently stands as the world’s largest border-guarding force.

Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)

  • The Indo-Tibetan Border Police were established on 24th October 1962 after the 1962 Sino-Indian conflict.
  • It was created under the CRPF Act.
  • Presently, ITBP is deployed on border guarding duties from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh covering 3488 km of Indo-China Border and manning Border Outposts on altitudes ranging from 9000’ to 18700’ in the Western, Middle and Eastern sectors of the Indo-China Border.
  • ITBPF is a specialized mountain force and most of the officers and men are professionally trained mountaineers and skiers.
  • Being the first responder for a natural disaster, ITBPF has been carrying out numerous rescue and relief operations across the country.
  • It detects and prevents border violations.
  • The force also keeps a check on illegal immigration and trans-border smuggling.
  • It has been deployed in UN peacekeeping missions in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Western Sahara, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Afghanistan and Sudan.

National Security Guard (NSG)

  • It was established on 22nd September 1986.
  • The Union Cabinet in 1984 took a decision to create a Federal Contingency Force comprising personnel who are highly motivated, specially equipped and well trained to tackle the various manifestations of terrorism.
  • In June 1984, a nucleus consisting of the Director General of NSG and other essential elements was sanctioned and steps were initiated to raise the Force.
  • A bill for creation of this Organization was introduced in the Parliament in August 1986 and it received the assent of the President on September 22, 1986 and the National Security Guard (NSG) formally came into being from that date.
  • NSG is Federal Contingency World Class Zero Error Force to deal with anti-terrorist activities in all its manifestation.
  • The NSG is a Force specially equipped and trained to deal with specific situations and is therefore, to be used only in exceptional circumstances to thwart serious acts of terrorism.
  • It was raised to combat terrorist activities and to guarantee the states do not experience any internal disturbances.
  • They played a crucial role in countering the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)

  • In the wake of the Chinese conflict in 1962, it was felt that the borders of the country could not be protected with the force of rifles alone.
  • The Sashastra Seema Bal was set up in March 1963.
  • They guard Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan Borders.
  • They are also deployed during elections as polling booth security.
  • Its area of coverage included 15 states
  • It required the backing and resolute will of a committed border population. In addition, it needed an in-depth understanding and familiarity with the terrain as well as the culture and ethos of the border population. A need was, therefore, realized for the creation of a unique, unconventional yet specialized organization, which would function in the far, flung, vulnerable, strategic, remote, climatically and topographically difficult border areas and motivate the border population across several states towards the cause of protecting our national sovereignty.
  • The Special Service Bureau (now Sashastra Seema Bal) was thus conceived in November 1962 and eventually created in March 1963 with the sole objective of achieving Total security preparedness’ in the remote border areas for performing a ‘stay-behind’ role in the event of a war.

Assam Rifles

  • The Assam Rifles was established in 1835. It is considered the oldest of all paramilitary forces and one of the six Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).
  • This force plays a crucial role in North East India, handling counterinsurgency and border security operations.
  • They are also guarding the 1,643 km long Indo-Myanmar border since 2002.
  • It is the only paramilitary force with a dual-control structure
  • It is often referred to as the “Friends of the Hill People”, “Friends of the North East People” and the “Sentinels of the North East”.
  • It is headed by an Army officer of the rank of Lieutenant General. It currently reports to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The administrative control of Assam Rifles is with MHA while the operational control is with the Ministry of Defence.
  • It remains the most awarded paramilitary force in both pre-and post-independent India – Since independence, it has been awarded 120 Shaurya Chakras, 31 Kirti Chakras, five Vir Chakras and four Ashok Chakras, apart from 188 Sena Medals.
  • Assam Rifles Act 2006 and rules 2010 give it statutory status, powers, functions, roles, operations etc.

Role and Tasks:

  • Conduct counter-insurgency operations in the northeast and other areas where deemed necessary, under the control of the army.
  • During peace and ‘proxy war’, ensure the security of the Indo-China and Indo-Myanmar borders. During the war, rear area security in the TBA.
  • Act as a penultimate interventionist force of the central government in internal security situations, under the control of the army; when the situation goes beyond the control of central paramilitary operations.
  • In times of war, they can also be used as a combat force to secure rear areas if needed.

Other Forces

Railway Protection Force (RPF)

  • Railway Protection Force (RPF), ensures the safety and security of the travelling public on the Railways.
  • It is under the Ministry of Railways. They protect railway passengers, Station areas and railway property.
  • They take care of criminals and anti-social elements from trains, railway premises and passenger areas.
  • This is the only armed force of the Union which has the power to arrest, investigate and prosecute criminals.

National Disaster Response Force (NDRF)

  • India has faced some of its most severe natural calamities like the Orissa Super Cyclone (1999), Gujarat
    Earthquake (2001) and Indian Ocean Tsunami (2004). This succession of events and the international environment brought to the fore, the need for a comprehensive disaster management plan. This led to the enactment of the Disaster Management Act on Dec 26th, 2005.
  • The Disaster Management Act has statutory provisions for the constitution of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for the purpose of specialized response to natural and man-made disasters.
  • Accordingly, in 2006 NDRF was constituted of 8 Battalions. At present, NDRF has a strength of 12 Battalions. It works under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • It is manned by persons on deputation from various CAPFs and also re-employs physically fit members of the armed forces who have retired but are still under reserve liability.


  • Quick response during disasters.
  • Acquire and continuously updating of its own training and skills.
  • Liaison, Reconnaissance, Rehearsals and Mock Drills.
  • Community Capacity Building Programme.
  • Immediate deployment during impending disaster situations.
  • Impart basic and operational level training to State Response
  • Organizing Public Awareness Campaigns all over the country.

Special Protection Group (SPG)

  • After the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi, the government felt a need to raise a dedicated force whose sole responsibility will be to protect present and former PMs of India and their immediate family members.
  • Thus in 1988, SPG was established. Special Protection Group or SPG as it is known is a finely trained organization which provides proximate security to the VIPs of India.
  • The Special Protection Group (SPG) under the Cabinet Secretariat is also classified as a CAPF.
  • It works under the control of the Cabinet Secretariat.


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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

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