IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Vikas Battalion

2nd September, 2020 Security

Context: There have been reports that a Special Frontier Force (SFF) unit, referred to as Vikas Battalion, has been instrumental in occupying some key heights on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Ladakh to thwart any occupation by the Chinese troops.

About SFF:

  • SFF was raised in the immediate aftermath of the 1962 Sino-India war.
  • It was a covert outfit, which recruited Tibetans (now it has a mixture of Tibetans and Gorkhas) and initially went by the name of Establishment 22.
  • It was named so because it was raised by Major General Sujan Singh Uban, an Artillery officer who had commanded 22 Mountain Regiment. He, therefore, named the new covert group after his regiment.
  • Subsequently, the group was renamed as Special Frontier Force and it now falls under the purview of the Cabinet Secretariat where it is headed by an Inspector General, who is an Army officer of the rank of Major General.
  • The units that comprise the SFF are known as Vikas battalions.

Are SFF units part of the Army?

  • Strictly speaking, the SFF units are not part of the Army but they function under operational control of the Army.
  • The units have their own rank structures, which have equivalent status with Army ranks. However, they are highly trained special forces personnel who can undertake a variety of tasks, which would normally be performed by any special forces unit.
  • The SFF units, therefore, function virtually as any other Army unit in operational areas despite having a separate charter and history.
  • They have their own training establishment where the recruits to SFF are imparted special forces training. Incidentally, women soldiers too form a part of SFF units and perform specialised tasks.

What are the major operations in which SFF units has taken part?

  • They took part in operations in the 1971 war, Operation Blue Star in Golden Temple Amritsar, Kargil conflict and in counter-insurgency operations in the country.

What was the SFF role in 1971 war?

  • In 1971, the SFF operated in the Chittagong hill tracts in East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) to neutralise Pakistan Army positions and help the Indian Army advance ahead. The operation was code-named ‘Operation Eagle’.
  • They also played a vital role in preventing the escape of Pakistan Army personnel from Bangladesh into Burma (now Myanmar).