The Home Guards is a paramilitary police force. It is a voluntary force which works as an auxiliary to the police. Recruitment in home guards is broad based comprising from various sections of the civil society such as professionals, government servants, and workers etc. who can give their spare time for the betterment of community. All citizens of India in the age group of 18-50 are eligible. Normal tenure of membership in Home guards is 3 years. Civil defence organisation is also voluntary in nature. Civil defence set up is present in all over the country which are categorised by Government of India.
The total strength of Home guards in the country is 573793, against which the present raised strength is 443203.
Home guards organisation exists in all the states except Kerala. There are 225 categorised civil defence towns in India , out of which only 121 are functional. Also, against the target of 13 lakh civil defence volunteers only 6.60 lakhs have been enrolled.
Home guards were originally raised in the erstwhile Bombay Province in 1946. The twin voluntary organisation of CD and HG were raised to provide protection to citizen in any untoward condition. The 6th of December every year is celebrated throughout the nation as raising day of the organisation. On this day in 1946, during the turmoil period of civil disorder on communal riots, in Bombay presidency first Home guard unit was raised as a civil voluntary force to aid administration as auxiliary to police force. During Chinese aggression Home guard organisation was reorganised and subsequently, Indian Home guard Act came into existence. Both organisation functions as auxiliary to police force in order to help community in any kind of emergency; to maintain functional units to provide essential services. The border wing home guards of 18 Battalions assists the border security force in preventing infiltration.
At the national level the Director General Home Guards and Civil Defence under the ministry of Home Affairs (M H A) is responsible for formulating home guards and civil defence policies and for coordination in states. The HG and CD set up is headed by senior police officers designated as Commandant general Home guards and Director general civil defence. At district level, district commandant home guards and deputy controller civil defence are designated to head the field units and for coordinating with district administration.
All the states have district training centers and central training institutes (CTIs) and most of them are combined training institutes (CTIs) for CD and HG both. Many of them are non-functional due to lack of funds, a sizeable number of staff posts are vacant and many of the units do not have adequate transport and other infrastructure facilities including proper offices for their day to day functioning.
Home guards and civil defence organisation is perceived as an activity during war. Since there has been no war during last four decades hence the organisation seems to have lost its relevance. Due to these factors the role of organisation has changed drastically. Now the volunteers are deployed on the regular basis to maintain law and order, to control traffic, to manage crowd in different festivals and in conducting state and union elections. MHA has conveyed its approval to the state governments to utilize its volunteers for mitigation, prevention and preparedness for disaster and also for response and relief after the disaster has struck.
Home guards volunteers play an important role in fairs like Kumbh, Kanwad and many other religious fairs taking place in the state. Also, the volunteers have a key role in various kinds of emergencies.