The Union Home Ministry has directed the Mehbooba Mufti-led Jammu and Kashmir government to put in place a screening and review mechanism” for recruitment of special police officers (SPO) and transfer their salaries “only in Aadhaar linked bank accounts”.
The move, sources said, comes days after the Kashmir visit of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh along with home secretary Rajiv Gauba where some residents complained that the recruitment was done in an arbitrary manner and those recruited by the government were being made to work as cooks, cleaners, drivers for senior officials and government functionaries.
The recruitment of SPOs were announced last year soon after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. As many as 10,000 post of SPOs were sanctioned. Nearly 5,750 SPOs have been recruited in the past one year.
Before 2016, there were 25,474 SPOs in Jammu and Kashmir, according to the ministry.
The Union Home Minister last year also set up a committee for assessing the performance, utility and efficacy of SPOs. The committee was chaired by the joint secretary in charge of Kashmir in the home ministry, but it is not clear whether any performance evaluation was done by the committee, sources said.
“Since SPOs have played a vital role in combating militancy in the Valley and due to its popularity among youths, the government decided to bring in greater transparency in recruitment,” said a ministry spokesperson. The home ministry has asked the state government to define the procedure for recruitment and provide a review of those recruited in the past one year.
“This is being done not only to rule out allegations levelled by locals but also to establish the utility of SPOs in counter-insurgency operations,” said another official.
The ministry last year enhanced the honorarium for SPOs to Rs 6,000 per month from Rs 3,000. Officials said the honorarium is given by the state government and reimbursed by the Centre under the Security Related Expenditure (SRE) scheme.
“We have also asked for payment of honorarium through Aadhaar-linked bank accounts to bring in more transparency,” the official said.
The Jammu and Kashmir police said SPOs are an important element in their strategy to combat militancy.