New Delhi: Government has decided to phase out a non-uniformed cadre comprising 4,000 personnel which was created to work in border areas in the wake of Chinese aggression in 1963 and worked under Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) till 2001.

The cadre is at present part of the paramilitary Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) which guards Indian borders with Nepal and Bhutan.

The personnel in these units help the force gather intelligence and earn public goodwill, an essential necessity for operational purposes in and around border villages and towns.
"Yes I agree it's a dying cadre because in certain places the progression of their careers has been slightly stunted.... It (complete phase out) will take some time. There are about 4,000 people in this cadre," SSB chief Pranay Sahay said when asked if the cadre would be abolished.

Sahay said according to government policy these personnel can get enrolled into "combat ranks" after they pass the mandatory rules of physical fitness and ability but not many people have opted for it.

"There will be no combatisation (of the civilian cadre).... as it is a laid down policy of the government that it will not be done without the consent of the individual," the SSB Director General said.

The cadre, for the last 48 years, has been working in insurgency hit areas along the border and recently in Naxal-hit states, undertaking civic welfare programmes like teaching children in schools, conducting medical camps and organising vocational training courses.

"They won sympathy and praise for the force wherever they worked.They worked on the policy that welfare and police action should go hand-in-hand so that locals have a sense of belonging for the country," a senior SSB officer said.

The cadre worked under the command of RAW in the Cabinet Secretariat till 2001 after which SSB became a new armed force under the Union Home Ministry.

According to senior SSB officials, the cadre is fast losing its sheen as the personnel are not getting timely promotions and they cannot opt for combat posts as their physical fitness does not permit them do arduous tasks.

"They will also have to serve under much junior officers who have been directly recruited by the UPSC, leading to fears of demoralisation among them," sources said.
"The cadre will be silently phased out in the next ten years. The legacy of this civilian cadre, unique in any armed force, will soon be history," a senior official said.

SSB DG Sahay acknowledged the quality of work done by the cadre along the border areas of the porous Nepal and Bhutan frontiers.

"The quality and quantity of intelligence generated by this cadre along both the borders we guard is better than any other agency.... I can say this," he said.
The SSB, with 37 battalions (about 40,000 personnel), is now training its combatants in snooping skills required for operational purposes as they are designated as the 'lead intelligence agency' on both the borders.