The social media outburst of a Border Security Force jawan must have come as a rude shock to his supervisors. Other Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and State Police Forces will also carry out a reality check. Electronic media is bound to bring this news to jawans all over the country and flood the news space on their channels with the footage and comments of the troops and officers. The BSF on their part have rushed senior officers to carry out a fact-finding enquiry. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also called for a report from the Director General of BSF on this disturbing video of poor and insufficient food being made available to the troops deployed on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir. A preliminary report has been received by MHA and the detailed report is awaited. The public as a whole is also very critical of the CAPF leadership on social media for their failure to ensure quality food to those who defend of our borders. The whole episode has unfortunately raised suspicions about the quality of life of our troops on the borders.
Inspector General of BSF in Jammu has claimed that constable Tej Bahadur Yadav of 29th Battalion is a habitual offender and has earned several punishments in his career. The manner in which Yadav has bypassed the established channels of communication to voice his grievance is questionable as per service rules and needs to be dealt with effectively so that discipline and morale of other troops do not become a casualty in the long run. The history of delinquency on the part of Yadav does not undermine the need for an enquiry into his allegations of poor quality food, long working hours and corruption by the officers of his unit.
Of late, it has become common for officers and men of the uniformed services to post their pictures in uniform and with weapons and also disclosing their locations on social media, which calls for revisiting the social media policy being practised in the CAPFs and the state police forces. The concerned authorities have issued voluminous instructions in this regard which is seldom translated into a vernacular understood by jawans. A gist of these instructions is rarely prepared and circulated to all the field units and posted on the notice boards meant for the jawans. Proper briefing on such matters may also not be taking place because the junior leadership at the ground level itself is blissfully unaware of the import of such policies.
I have had the fortune of serving in the BSF and SSB where the opportunity to supervise and deploy battalions on the LoC was also part of my responsibility. I can assure the readers that the police leadership is acutely sensitive to the food served to the jawans. All visiting officers like to share the food with the jawans at the forward locations and if any deficiencies are noticed appropriate measures are taken to correct them. After the Monday parade in the districts, the senior-most police officer visits the cookhouse and samples the food himself to ensure its quality. Whenever any senior officer visited the forward locations, he carried sufficient amounts of fresh vegetables and fruits for the troops. I sincerely hope that the practice still continues.
With better road communication and improved logistic support, there is no reason why fresh vegetables and fruits, condiments, tinned food and other rations should not be available to the troops. There are two systems of procuring rations in the CAPFs. Wherever the troops are deployed under the command of Army on the LC or the LoC, the responsibility to provide rations lies with the Army, as per the laid downscale. At all other locations, the messes are run on a cooperative basis where a committee representing all ranks of the unit purchases rations after market survey. Since the day to day running of the kitchen is participatory in nature, there are virtually no complaints about this system. There are certain occasions particularly during winters and natural calamities like floods leading to disruption of road and air communication which may lead to an occasional shortage of supplies, but then the hardy troops of CAPFs are used to such situations and do not complain about it.
However, the issues highlighted by Yadav on social media need to be thoroughly examined by the BSF and whatever be the loopholes in the system should be plugged immediately.
(Somesh Goyal is an IPS officer of the Himachal Pradesh cadre. The views expressed are strictly personal.)