A total of 4,153 Village Defence Groups (VDG) and 32,355 Special Police Officers were engaged in Jammu and Kashmir in different responsibilities for the protection of civilians and anti-terrorists operations. According to the annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for 2022-23, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir was affected by terrorist and secessionist violence, sponsored and supported from across the border for about three decades.
The ongoing militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is linked with infiltration of terrorists from across the border both from the International Border as well as the Line of Control, it said.
The MHA annual report stated that in view of the prevailing security scenario, the Village Defence Group scheme was notified by the Jammu and Kashmir government in 1995 and the scheme has been revised and notified on August 14, 2022.
“The members of the Village Defence Group are designated as Village Defence Guards. At present, the sanctioned strength of Village Defence Group is 4,985, of which 4,153 Village Defence Groups have been constituted,” the report said.
The original name of the VDG was Village Defence Committee (VDC). The idea to set up VDC was conceived in the arming of ex-service personnel in the 1965 and 1971 wars to check Pakistani infiltration and espionage, officials said.
The VDCs were formed in Jammu region to offer self-defence capabilities to villagers in the face of continuous terrorist threats. Under the scheme, each VDC used to have a Special Police Officer (SPO) as its in-charge and there were 10-15 other volunteer members, mostly ex-service personnel.
They were given .303 rifles and ammunition. The SPO in charge of the VDC was paid whereas the rest were volunteers.
In 2020, the policy of Village Defence Committees was revamped and Village Defence Groups were introduced, members of whom are called Village Defence Guards (VDGs).
It was not only the name, the structure of the committees has also been changed. Unlike VDCs where only SPOs were paid, all VDGs are now paid.
In more vulnerable areas, the VDGs are paid Rs 4,500 per month while others are paid a uniform rate of Rs 4,000 per month, the officials said.
The VDGs functions under the supervision of district superintendent of police or senior superintendent of police.
According to the MHA annual report, at present, the sanctioned strength of the Special Police Officers (SPOs) is 34,707 of which 32,355 SPOs are appointed. They are led and guided by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in various assignments entrusted to them.
The institution of Special Police Officers (SPOs) was started in Jammu and Kashmir from 1995.
The basic concept of creation of SPOs was to provide auxiliary help to law enforcing agencies in the drive against terrorism and involve the local population for their own protection as well as to help the Jammu and Kashmir Police and paramilitary forces in curbing the menace of militancy, the report said.
The remuneration of SPOs of Jammu and Kashmir Police has been enhanced up to Rs 18,000 per month in the following manner: SPOs having experience of less than three years is paid Rs 6,000, SPOs having experience of more than three years and less than 5 years is paid Rs 9,000, SPOs having experience of more than five years and less than 10 years is paid Rs 12,000, SPOs having experience of more than 10 years and less than 15 years is paid Rs 15,000, and SPOs having experience of more than 15 years is paid Rs 18,000 per month, the report said.