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Leadership crisis in BSF

Leadership crisis in BSF

Border Security Force, the largest border guarding force of the world is in turmoil largely because of the short-sighted policies adopted by a transient IPS leadership which neither has the will, expertise, or stakes in well-being of this critically important force responsible for security and management of borders during peace and as first line of defence during hostilities.

BSF like other Central armed forces of India is also increasingly involved in mortal combat more than the Indian Army. A comparison will reveal that for last ten years the causalities in active operations amongst the central armed forces are much more than the Army.
BSF gets heavily committed to controlling internal security problems, be it Punjab, Kashmir, North East, or Maoist insurgency because the Civil Police commanded by IPS is not trained to handle such situations. BSF has acquitted itself admirably in controlling the militancy in Punjab and Kashmir and insurgencies in the North East. Role of BSF in facilitating Naga accord by motivating them to surrender is a glorious achievement. BSF while still in infancy, during 1971 war through brave deeds won one Mahavir and 11 Vir Chakra.
As the sole visible representative of the Government in remote areas, the border man is always available to help local population in times of exigency. Cutting edge level original BSF cadre leadership has carved a niche for BSF through effective implementation of the mandate of inculcating a sense of security amongst border population through meticulous planning and implementation of Border Area Development and Civic action programmes.
These officers and subordinate officers of the BSF cadre, unlike the imposed leadership from the Indian Police Service (IPS) always stay with Jawans at OPs and have deep insight and empathy for problems of border population and Jawans operating under challenging conditions on remote Border Out Posts (BOPs).
International Border (IB) in Jammu is the exclusive responsibility of BSF and troops lead by cadre officers have done extremely well in effectively repulsing enemy fire assaults and instilled fear of God in them. BSF is steadfast along with Army while deployed under their operational control on the Line of Control (LC).
Valient martyr Prem Sagar was part of joint patrol ambushed by the enemy in Bhimber Gali on May 1. Unfortunately, the valiant soldier, even though performing exactly the same duties as the soldier of Army, he was treated as a civilian employee because the IPS leadership has got BSF declared a civil organisation in order to retain their control, even though BSF is an Armed Force as per the BSF Act. Thus, BSF personnel are deprived of benefits available to Defence forces and receive almost 30 per cent less pay than their Army counterparts. Family of the deceased would also be receiving almost half the benefits entitled to the Army soldier killed along with him. They have repeatedly failed to properly project the case for grant of pension, and other allowances at par with Army, resulting in severe heart burn amongst troops, especially when deployed alongside Army.
An indication of low morale is reflected in the high attrition rate of 2583, ie over 1 per cent voluntary retirement in 2014 and 7166 personnel, i.e. 3 per cent in three years since 2012. 60 per cent of selected officers have declined to join BSF. Home Ministry has filed the rate of voluntary retirement in BSF has gone up by 450 per cent over last year in Parliament.
In spite of extremely difficult service conditions and stagnation that the BSF cadre officer themselves face they have ensured efficiency in service. It is to the credit of these cutting edge leaders rooted to ground and knowing the pulse of their jawans that BSF is the only uniformed force that has never gone on strike.
Most important reason for low morale is the irrational and faulty operational, personnel, and administrative policies pursued by the IPS officers as they have no connect with the operational philosophy and ethos of BSF.
Even after 51 years of existence of BSF, IPS officers keep occupying top posts and the very transient nature of leadership they provide, precludes them from developing any vested interest in familiarising themselves about the organisational ethos and operational philosophy.
Unlike all other services, the rules in BSF are such that a BSF cadre officer can head the force. Most of them can barely become Commandant ie equivalent of two promotions in a service span of almost 35 years. Only a few become DIGs and barely 1 per cent become IG. With only one post of Additional DG for cadre, just 11 officers have reached this level so far for a period ranging from few days to months.
The situation will worsen further in future due to erratic and heavy intake during last decade. These officers face a bleak future with just one promotion likely during their entire service.
The Rules have been so framed that they severely curtail the fundamental right of BSF Cadre officer to be considered for promotion by reserving higher posts for IPS. Therefore in spite of availability of capable and experienced officers, they can't be promoted because higher level posts are reserved for IPS, thus wasting the rich experience of cadre officers. Further, many posts specially at the level of DIG, reserved for IPS remain vacant because they do not want to come at this level due to posting in far flung difficult areas. Such posts in force like CISF are never vacant because of easy postings in major towns.
The callousness of IPS leadership towards BSF Cadre is such that Delhi High Court had to direct carrying out mandatory cadre review which was not done for almost 30 years even though it should have been done every five years as per Government guidelines. Even this exercise instead of ameliorating grievances of BSF Cadre has actually enhanced avenues of IPS officers who man most top level posts. For BSF Cadre, the entire exercise has just meant postponing stagnation through superfluous proliferation of ranks at lower levels. Maintaining their hegemony even at cost of efficiency, effectiveness and well-being of BSF is their only interest.
Furtherance of avenues of IPS being their only interest, the IPS association has impleaded in an SLP against a well-reasoned order of Honorable Delhi High Court granting nonfunctional upgradation (NFU) to BSF and other armed forces.
The situation of personnel below officers is even worse. A Jawan can expect just one promotion in entire career, that too after 20-22 years. Earlier, intermediary ranks of L/Nk and Naik were abolished by IPS leading to severe command, control problems besides demoralisation due to abysmal career growth.
Unplanned expansion and recruitment have played truant with the career of personnel and diluted standards of training by alternately overburdening and underutilisation of infrastructure. Implication on the efficiency of force and security of the nation is obvious. Infrastructure at "Border Out Posts" also is overburdened as jawans are compelled to live in extremely cramped and subhuman conditions.
Unaware of ground realities they failed to convince the Government about the irrationality of raising Seventh Company in units instead of intact units leading to severe administrative, operational, and personnel management problems by overburdening the Command by 20 – 25 per cent leading to aberration manifested in videos uploaded by Ct Yadav in January 2017.
The necessity of ensuring optimum vigil on borders by not denuding the borders for duties in the interior is never taken up logically with Government. Transient leadership neither has vision nor inclination to logically pitch for the creation of adequate reserves.
Impractical and unrealistic orders have been imposed on operational command in handling routine situations. For example, the troops in East have strict orders not to open fire on criminals even in self defence. An officer is likely to face court martial for opening fire in self defense with "Pump action Gun" which resulted in the death of a Bangladeshi smuggler. Troops are, therefore, reluctant to take initiative for fear of penal action.
IPS officers treat BSF as police and do not comprehend the importance of regimentation which they tried to dilute. MHA orders were later rescinded through good offices of veterans.
It is apparent that IPS leadership woefully out of depth is increasingly failing to inspire confidence because of inability to comprehend the dynamics of organisation and border management which is a specialised task entirely different from policing. It is high time to pass on the baton of leadership of BSF, a specialised organisation to its own professional cadre of experienced and mature officers.
(Sanjiv Krishan Sood is Additional Director General (Retd), BSF. The views expressed are strictly personal.)

Sanjiv Krishan Sood

Sanjiv Krishan Sood

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