India has five federal-level armed police organizations that constitute the CAPFs under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). Often, CAPFs are incorrectly referred to as the Central Para Military Forces.

India’s CAPFs are not meant to be paramilitary in nature. They operate under the MHA, rather than the Ministry of Defence. Their mandate is to assist the state police organizations under special circumstances like communal riots, insurgency, and border skirmishes.

Indian armed forces consist of three services viz. Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. The President of India is the Supreme Commander of Indian Armed Forces {as per article 53(2)}. With around 13 Lakh active personnel, India has world’s third largest military force.

The armed forces are supported by three paramilitary forces viz. Assam Rifles (AR), Indian Coast Guard (ICG) and Special Frontier Force (SFF). Indian Armed Forces and Paramilitary forces come under the Ministry of Defense.

Central Armed Police Forces: Currently, India has five Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) viz. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB). These come under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF)

  1. Border Security Force(BSF):

The border security force is a border guarding force. BSF was established on 1 December 1965. It is called as ‘First Wall of Defence of Indian Territories’.

Nodal Agency: BSF is headed by an IPS officer and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Functions: The primary role BSF is to guard India’s international borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh during peacetime and also prevent trans-border crime.

Other Information: The BSF has its own cadre of officers but its head, designated as a Director-General (DG), since it’s raising has been an officer from the Indian Police Service (IPS).

The BSF has grown exponentially from a few battalions in 1965, to 1986 battalions with a sanctioned strength of 2.5 lakh personnel including an expanding air wing, marine wing, artillery regiments, and commando units.

It currently stands as the world’s largest border guarding force. BSF has been termed as the First Line of Defence of Indian Territories.

  1. Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF):

It came into existence as the Crown Representative’s Police on 27 July 1939. After Indian Independence, it became the Central Reserve Police Force on enactment of the CRPF Act on 28 December 1949. The Central Reserve Police Force is the largest of India’s Central Armed Police Forces.

Nodal Agency: It functions under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) of the Government of India.


  • The CRPF’s primary role lies in assisting the State/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and counter insurgency.
  • Countering Naxal operations
  • Besides Law and Order and counter-insurgency duties, the role of CRPF in the General Elections, held repeatedly during the past few years, has been very significant and vital. This is especially true for the trouble-ridden states of Jammu and Kashmir, Bihar and in the North East. During the Parliamentary elections of September 1999, the CRPF played a major role in the security arrangements. Of late, CRPF contingents are also being deployed in UN missions.

Strength: With 235 battalions and various other establishments, the CRPF is considered India’s largest paramilitary force and has a sanctioned strength of 308,862 personnel.

Some specialized formations of CRPF are:

  • The Rapid Action Force(RAF)
  • Commando Battalions for Resolute Action(COBRA)
  • Special Duty Group(SDG) and Parliament Duty Group(PDG)

3. The Central Industrial Security Force (C.I.S.F):

It was raised in the year 1969. It was set up under an Act of the Parliament of India on 10 March 1969 with a strength of 2,800. CISF was subsequently made an armed force of the Republic of India by another Act of Parliament passed on 15 June 1983. Its current sanctioned strength is 142,526 personnel.

Nodal Agency: It is directly under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and its headquarters are in New Delhi.


  • The CISF provides security cover to 300 industrial units and other establishments located all over India. Industrial sectors like atomic power plants, space installations, mints, oil fields and refineries, major ports, heavy engineering, steel plants, barrages, fertilizer units, airports and hydroelectric/thermal power plants owned and controlled by Central Public-Sector Undertakings (PSUs), and currency note presses producing Indian currency are protected by CISF. It thereby covers installations all over India straddling a variety of terrain and climatic conditions.
  • CISF also provides consultancy services to private industries as well as other organizations within the Indian government. The scope of CISF’s consulting practice includes security consulting and fire protection consulting.
  • CISF is just a unique organization in paramilitary forces for India, which works for sea ways, airways and some of the major installations in India. In CISF there are some reserved battalions which work with the state police to protect law and orders.
  • CISF plays a major role in Disaster Management, for Disaster Management course the personnel is trained from NISA, Hyderabad. Another unique thing which the CISF has is a Fire Wing which helps during fire accidents in Industries where CISF is on guard.
  • The CISF started providing security to the Infosys Bangalore campus in 2009.Infosys Mysore, reliance refinery, Jamnagar and the Delhi metro airport express line are the latest additions to the list of private sector establishments to be placed under CISF cover.
  1. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP):

ITBP is one of the five Central Armed Police Forces of India, raised on 24 October 1962, under the CRPF Act, in the wake of the Sino-Indian War of 1962. In September 1996, the Parliament of India enacted the “Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force Act, 1992” to “provide for the constitution and regulation” of the ITBP “for ensuring the security of the borders of India and for matters connected therewith”.

Nodal Agency: Ministry of Home Affairs.

Functions: The ITBP was intended for deployment along India’s border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The ITBP is trained in Civil Medical Camp, disaster management, and nuclear, biological and chemical disasters. ITBP personnel has been deployed abroad in UN peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Western Sahara, Sudan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Two battalions of ITBP are deputed to National Disaster Response Force.

  1. Sashastra Seema Bal(SSB):

Sashastra Seema Bal or SSB, in English the Armed Border Force, is one of India’s Central Armed Police Forces. The Special Service Bureau (also abbreviated SSB) was set up in early 20 December 1963, following the Sino-Indian War.

Nodal Agency: It is currently under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India. Prior to 2001, the force was known as the Special Service Bureau (SSB).

Functions: The previous role of the Special Service Bureau was to motivate and mobilize India’s border population for national security during times of peace as well as war and to promote a sense of security and brotherhood among the population, in furtherance of national integration. Its present-day role consists of preventing cross-border crime and smuggling as well as other anti-national activities.

In pursuit of achieving this mandated task, the SSB has been conferred with certain powers under the Criminal Procedure Code of 1973, the Arms Act of 1959, the NDPS Act of 1985 and the Passport Act of 1967. The Government of India also contemplates conferring additional powers under the Customs Act of 1962.

These powers are to be exercised within a belt of 15 km in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, running along the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders, as well as in any other area of SSB operation.

The role of SSB comprises the following:

  • to promote a sense of security among the people living in the border areas
  • to prevent trans-border crimes and unauthorized entry or exit from the territory of India.
  • to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities.

The Paramilitary Forces

  1. Assam Rifles:

Assam rifles are fondly known as ‘friends of the north-east people’ it is the oldest para military force in the country. The headquarters of Assam rifles is at Shillong.

It is Established under British government in 1835, it got its name (Assam Rifles) in 1917. It is always seen as one of the most responsible branches as it had served out of India in World War I and II.

Nodal Agency: It is under the administrative control of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) but operates under the army. It is led and head by army officers. It assists Indian armed forces but reports to the ministry of home affairs(MHA).

Functions: It is seen perfect in handling counter insurgency operation, border security operations etc. It is also guarding the 1,643 km long Indo – Myanmar border.

  1. Indian coast guard: Formally it is established in 1978, it is the force that is responsible for maintaining maritime law and protects maritime issues of India.

After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the government initiated a program to expand the ICG force, assets, and infrastructure. The force is expected to be tripled between 2010 and 2019 in manpower, vessels, and aircraft.

Nodal Agency: It operates under the ministry of defense. It works in a close cooperation of Indian navy, department of revenue, department of fisheries, state and central police forces.


Safety and Protection of Artificial Islands and Offshore Terminals

 Protection of Fishermen

 Assistance to Fishermen in Distress at Sea

Other Important Security Forces

  1. National Security Guard (NSG):

The National Security Guard (NSG) is an Indian special forces unit under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It was raised in 1984.

Nodal Agency: NSG is under the authority of Ministry of Home Affairs (India), However, it is not categorized under the uniform nomenclature of Central Armed Police Forces.

Functions: It has a special forces mandate, and its core operational capability is provided by the Special Action Group (SAG) which is drawn from the Indian Army. The Special Rangers Group (SRG), the police component of NSG, which also handles VIP security, is composed of personnel on deputation from other Central Armed Police Forces and State Police Forces.

The NSG’s specific goals include:

  • neutralisation of terrorist threats
  • handling hijacking situations in air and on land
  • bomb disposal
  • engaging and neutralizing terrorists in specific situations
  • hostage rescue

Other Information: The NSG personnel are often referred to in the media as Black Cats because of the black dress and black cat insignia worn on their uniform. The NSG has maintained an edge over terrorist outfits in the possession of latest technology.

  1. Special Protection Group (SPG):

The force was established in 1985 after the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi erstwhile prime minister.

Nodal Agency: The force is under the control of the cabinet secretariat.

Functions: The special protection group (SPG) is the executive protection agency of the government of India. It is responsible for the protection of the prime minister of India, former prime ministers, and their immediate family members.

It provides proximate security to the protected including protection provided from close quarters, journey on foot, road, rail, aircraft, watercraft or any other means of transport, and includes place of functions, engagements, residence, etc.

  1. Railway Protection Force(RPF):


The genesis of establishing RPF can be traced back to 1854 when East Indian Railways employed certain staff designated as ‘Police’ to denote its own force by enacting the Police Act, 1861 and deployed a contingent for the security of the railway with the owner companies bearing their upkeep. The current strength of the RPF is about 65,000.

Nodal Agency: Ministry of Railways

Functions: the Indian railways entrusted with the task of protecting the lifeline of the country namely the Indian railways.

The objectives of the railway protection force include:

  • Carry on an unrelenting fight against criminals in protecting railway passengers, passenger area and railway property.
  • Facilitate passenger-travel and security by removing all anti-social elements from trains, railway premises and passenger area.
  • Remain vigilant to prevent trafficking in women and children and take appropriate action to rehabilitate destitute children found in Railway areas.
  • Co-operate with other departments of the Railways in improving the efficiency and image of the Indian Railways.
  • Act as a bridge between the Government Railway Police/local police and the Railway administration.
  • Adopt proactively all modern technology, best human rights practices, management techniques and special measures for protection of female and elderly passengers and children, in the pursuit of these objectives.

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