The Border Security Force constable Tej Bahadur Yadav who uploaded a video complaint about the quality of food that the forces get on the India-Pakistan border is, by the standards of his force, a trouble maker. The BSF may not be misleading us when it says that he has been a difficult jawan all through his 20 years of service because his action in uploading a video is not in keeping with the rules and regulations of either the BSF or any other police force.
But then, he is only the product of a new political culture which has
sought to use the military to push their own political agenda. A
popular meme to people who complained about demonetisation or, for that
matter, anything else, is to remind them of the difficulties faced by
the jawans who guarded the LoC. So instead of pulling up the constable
for rank indiscipline, union home minister Rajnath Singh and his deputy
Kiren Rijiju are scrambling to defend themselves and declaring their commitment to the welfare of the jawans.
That said, there is need to point out that the lot of the police and
paramilitary personnel in this country is indeed a tough one. By the
standards of this poor country, the jobs they get are coveted, paying
them reasonably well and providing a pension at the end of it.
However, their working conditions, especially when compared to the
Indian Army are rough. The CRPF is overused in all manner of
contingencies from superintending elections, to fighting Maoists in
Chattisgarh and countering militants in Jammu & Kashmir. There is
little time for rest and training and often the jawans have to do
without their annual leave. All this is despite the fact that the size
of the BSF and CRPF continues to grow over the years. In 2004, the BSF
was roughly 210,000 strong, today it is 260,000 and the CRPF which was
230,000 in 2004 is now nearly 310,000.
The responsibility for this state of affairs rests squarely with the
home ministry and the leadership of the respective forces. It is up to
the leadership to tell the ministry that if they want a well-trained,
well rested force to be used for internal security duty, they need to
tell their ministers the size of the manpower they need to ensure that.
Recruiting people and then keeping them on short-leash affects both the
morale and effectiveness of the personnel.
The army takes care of its jawans. All soldiers, for example, get
two-and-a-half months of leave per annum and their officers make sure
that they avail it. Further, the army follows a system of rotation of
its units to ensure that between every operational deployment, a
battalion is given a “peace” posting where the jawans can enjoy some
kind of a family life.
Second, the Indian army rations are not purchased locally, as is
probably the case with the Central Para Military Forces (CPMF), but
procured and distributed at a more centralised level and the
disbursement is, again, generous – a specified amount of meat, atta,
rice, dal, eggs and vegetables. There have been scams at the central
procurement level, but on the field, the jawan gets his due and his
officer has to make sure he gets it. In the army, the failure to ensure
that your man is getting his rations and is taking his leave is docked
against your record.
The real difference between the CPMF jawan and the Indian Army
soldier is the quality of leadership they receive – and that is the root
of many of the problems. The young lieutenant who leads his 30-man
platoon at the beginning of his career roughs it out with them on the
picket on the Line of Control and in patrols along the Line of Actual
Control with China. He rises to a company commander, battalion commander
and then may go on to command a brigade, a division or an army. And so,
even the top-most officers are familiar with the issues and problems of
the lowly jawan. He also knows the tricks of the trade that malingerers
and trouble-makers may employ, and he is also aided by the tough
military justice system to enforce discipline. But he knows that in the
end that he may have to lead these men into battle, so it is not
discipline alone, but the quality of his leadership that must carry the
This is very different from the CPMF, where the senior positions
above a DIG are occupied by Indian Police Service officers who arrive
laterally at their command positions with little knowledge or
experience of the field. As it is, the CPMF are often deployed in
penny-packets making their command and control difficult.
Rajnath Singh and others may claim they worry about the welfare of
the jawans, but in all fairness, the BSF and, especially the CRPF, often
get the short end of the stick. The locales of BSF deployment are
sometimes extremely trying, but they do not get the standards of ration
or leave and rest that army personnel get. As for the CRPF, its
jawans have termed the force – with a touch of black humour – the “Chalte Raho Pyare Force,” (Keep Moving, Beloved Force) for their continuously shifting deployments.
All this, of course, pales into comparison to the quality of life of
the ordinary civil policeman and policewoman. We are not talking about
the caricature corrupt cop, but the ordinary constable who gets little
or no facilities of any kind. Housing is often in slums and even police
stations lack basic structure or furniture in many cases.
The simple message that comes out from Tej Bahadur Yadav’s complaint,
howsoever wrong-headed it was, is that if you want security, you must
be ready to pay for it.
The Wire January 10, 2017