Jammu: J&K government has accorded sanction to the creation of the Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGS)-2022 to “prevent the incidents of terrorist acts inspired and supported from across the border and to boost the security grid in the Union Territory.”
The Scheme has come into operation with effect from today i.e., August 15, 2022 and will have prospective effect. As per an order issued by the Financial Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) Home Raj Kumar Goyal, the sanction to the creation of this scheme has been accorded in pursuance of the approval conveyed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India vide referred communication and in supersession of the Government Order No.Home-293 of 1995, dated September 30, 1995.
In this connection, the references were also made to the order dated June 1, 2022, passed by the High Court of J&K and Ladakh in WP(C) 3262/2019, titled Kewal Krishan and others versus State of J&K and others with clubbed matters and the Communication bearing F N0 17012/13/2021-S (JKL) dated March 2, 2022, of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, Department of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh Affairs.
The aim of the Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGs) is to organize a small group of volunteer armed civilians in the identified villages along the borders as well as in-depth areas of the Jammu division, with a view to instill sense of self protection and ensure the safety and security of such villages, infrastructural installations in and around them and to check the trans-border movement. Under the Scheme, the Village Defence Guards would be charged with the responsibility of protecting community installations and infrastructure facilities within the defined areas of their village and the Village Defence Guards would conduct night and day patrolling in a systematic manner.
As a backgrounder to the VDGS-2022, Goyal pointed out that the Village Defence Groups constituted in pursuance of the Government Order No.Home-293 of 1995, dated September 30, 1995, over the years successfully ensured the safety and security of the identified vulnerable villages and supplemented the efforts of the security forces in safeguarding the internal security. Keeping in view the security scenario prevailing in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, more specifically, in the areas where the earlier Scheme was in operation, a need was felt to revise the existing scheme with a view to prevent the incidents of terrorist acts inspired and supported from across the border and to boost the security grid in the Union Territory.
Under the revised Scheme, the areas or villages, where the earlier Scheme was in operation will be considered as “more vulnerable areas” for the purpose of the Scheme and the arrangements made pursuant to the earlier scheme will now be governed by the instant Scheme.
“Apart from these areas or villages, any other area or village, which may be considered as “more vulnerable area” by the law enforcement agencies, necessitating application of the Scheme to such other area or village, the government in the Home Department shall by an order declare such area or village as a “more vulnerable area” for the purpose of the instant Scheme,” the order mentioned.
It stated that based on the assessment made by the law enforcement agencies, a group of armed civilians belonging to the “more vulnerable areas”, not more than 15 in number in each group, who would be designated as “Village Defence Guards” (VDGs) would be formed.
As per the order, the VDGs will consist of two categories viz., those in possession of a valid arms licence and to whom weapons have been provided by the J&K Police, determined by the District Magistrate or Senior Superintendent of Police concerned, keeping in view the credentials, of the volunteers' population of the village, its location and security requirement and secondly, the persons in possession of valid licence and weapons or willing to purchase weapons on their own.
Each group will be called the “Village Defence Group” and will be headed by a retired officer of the Army, CPMF or J&K Police.
The members of each group will work on a voluntary basis and the selection will be made carefully by the district administration, from amongst the ex-servicemen and ex-policemen of the village and able-bodied young men, who have proficiency in the handling of arms, ammunition and are prepared to contribute towards the welfare of the community and security of the village.
The Village Defence Guards (VDGs) will be divided into two categories i.e., V1 category comprising the persons who will be heading, leading, coordinating the Village Defence Guards in the “more vulnerable areas” and they will be paid Rs 4500 per month and V2 category comprising the persons who are members of the “Village Defence Group” on voluntary basis and they will be paid a uniform rate of Rs 4000 per month.
“All the pending claims up to August 14, 2022, would be governed in terms of the earlier Scheme,” the order specified.
With regard to aspects of command and control, it was mentioned that each Village Defence Group would function under the supervision and direction of SP or SSP of the concerned district.
Each Village Defence Group would be led or coordinated by the persons bracketed in category V1, who would also be authorized to make use of the police wireless facilities for passing and receiving messages having a bearing on their charter of duties.
The Village Chowkidar and Lumberdar of the “more vulnerable areas” would be instructed to assist the Village Defence Groups in carrying out their duties.
“They may also seek the assistance of the local villagers in the discharge of their duties, who would be duty bound to provide the necessary assistance and help. The District Magistrate shall invoke the necessary legal provisions to facilitate the discharge of the duties by the Village Defence Groups. The District Magistrate concerned shall be responsible for dove-tailing the Village Defence Groups with the existing deployment of the security forces, both on the border as well as in the depth areas, in consultation with the security force commanders, so as to ensure optimum utilization of manpower and the weapons,” it was specified.
Goyal stated that the Village Defence Guards Scheme was intended to inculcate an attitude of self protection in security matters amongst the local population and also to supplement the ongoing efforts of the security forces in dealing with the acts of subversion and trans-border movement.
“It is a manifestation of the will of the people to actively and voluntarily participate in the efforts to thwart the nefarious designs of the anti-national elements and to uphold the sovereignty and integrity of the nation,” he added.