Even as the Narendra Modi government, after assuming power in May 2014, increased the crucial daily ration allowance of “non-gazetted combatised ranks” in the central paramilitary forces (CPMFs), it stands at only about 12 percent, a hike from Rs 85.96 (per head per day) to Rs 95.52, according to Home Ministry documents in The Quint’s possession.
Not only is the increase in percentage terms low, it is marginal in rupee terms when inflation and price rise are taken into account. The hike was the result of a long-pending demand of the CPMFs, including the BSF, CRPF, ITBP, SSB, Delhi Police and even IB.
Ration Money Allowance Remains the Same
The ration money allowance (RMA) for combatant paramilitary and defence personnel has remained the same after the Seventh Pay Commission recommended that “status quo be maintained regarding the rates of this allowance” on the grounds that the RMA is revised periodically by the Defence and Home Ministries.
However, in 2011, the Defence Ministry approved the increase in the scale of rations for chicken or mutton from 110 grams per man per day to 180 grams for all non-vegetarian jawans. But troops deployed in posts above 12,000 feet such as Siachen-Saltoro Ridge and Kargil get special rations comprising whole rather than ground meat, branded wheat flour, ready-to-eat vegetables and vegetarian packs and branded salt.
The Defence Ministry spends nearly Rs 1,600 crore annually to procure and supply dry and fresh ration to soldiers.
Food Allowance for US Counterparts
The pay commission panel had turned down the demand to exempt the RMA from being taxed. “However, looking into the unique service conditions of the central armed paramilitary forces (CAPFs), the Commission is of the view that since RMA is granted in lieu of free rations, it should be exempt from income tax.”
At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in overdrive to make India cashless by the use of smart money, debit/credit cards and e-wallets, the RMA given to paramilitary and army jawans is a pittance when compared to the food allowance given to American army privates.
“Most soldiers who qualify for this Army food allowance receive more than $200 per month,” according to a US army website. Besides, “soldiers who live on an Army post receive military housing and meals free of cost” and if troopers “live off post, the Army provides allowances for housing and meals.”
For US army personnel, the basic allowance for subsistence (BAS), effective from 1 January 2017, rose for enlisted soldiers to $368.29 and $253.63 for officers. This figure has not changed from what it was the previous year because the average food price in the US did not increase. Besides, American enlisted soldiers receive a daily meals and incidental expense (M&IE) allowance which, if necessary, is reviewed and revised every year.
Correlation Between Food and Morale
While there is a correlation between a fighting soldier’s nutritional reserves and morale, which is akin to saying that an army marches on its stomach, a 2008 study undertaken by the Mysuru-based Defence Food Research Laboratory and the Delhi-based Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences concluded that the “present ration scales for the Service personnel (not those belonging to the paramilitary forces), both in plains and high altitudes (9,000 to 15,000 feet), are adequate with regard to their nutrient density [...] adequate supply of good quality fresh vegetables, fruits and meat be ensured, which in turn would help keep the morale of soldiers, especially at high altitudes, still high and cheerful.”
But the study, entitled ‘Assessment of Ration Scales of the Armed Forces Personnel in Meeting the Nutritional Needs at Plains and High Altitudes’, a copy of which is in the possession of The Quint, revealed that “the personal opinion of the soldiers (who were interviewed) regarding quantity/quality, etc indicate that a majority of them are dissatisfied…The dissatisfaction could also be due to the monotonous nature of cuisines/dishes served every day at the lungars.”