WebQoof: Modi Govt Hasn’t Started Free Air Travel for Army Jawans
A photo with a caption suggesting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated free air travel for soldiers of the Indian Army has been doing the rounds.
A photo with a caption suggesting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated free air travel for soldiers of the Indian Army has been doing the rounds.(Photo altered by The Quint)

WebQoof: Modi Govt Hasn’t Started Free Air Travel for Army Jawans

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A photo with a caption suggesting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated free air travel for soldiers of the Indian Army is false.

BOOM found that the soldiers in the photos belong to the paramilitary forces who were deployed to Kerala in 2016 as part of election duty.

(Photo: BOOM LIVE)

The above photo has gone viral with a caption that translates to, “For the past 60 years, army soldiers used to travel in the general compartment of trains, and that too near the toilet. After sending those pictures, the (Narendra) Modi government has arranged flight for the army personnel to travel. A welcome step!”

The post has been shared by various Facebook pages since 2016 with the same caption.

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FACT-CHECK

BOOM was able to ascertain that the uniformed men in the photo are not from any unit of the Indian Army but actually belong to the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Force.

Unlike the Indian Army, the ITBP personnel are Central Armed Police Force, which in turn, falls under the broad umbrella of paramilitary forces. This means that the ITBP is managed and headed by the Ministry of Home Affairs and not the Ministry of Defence.

ITBP soldiers in uniform similar to that worn by the personnel in the viral post.
ITBP soldiers in uniform similar to that worn by the personnel in the viral post.
(Photo courtesy: ITBP website)

BOOM contacted Vivek Pandey, spokesperson of ITBP, who confirmed that the uniformed personnel in the photo belong to the paramilitary force.

He further said that the photo is from 2016 and was clicked during the Assembly elections that were held in various parts of the country.

“During elections, the Election Commission requests for companies of ITBP and other paramilitary forces to be deployed to the states which are going to polls to ensure law and order. What you see in the photo is a certain section of the ITBP company which was sent to Kerala during the 2016 Assembly elections held in the state. They had boarded the flight from West Bengal and were on their way to Kerala,” Pandey said.

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Pandey said flying ITBP personnel for election duty is not a new occurrence. “The ITBP companies are generally sent by train but sometimes, due to large number of personnel, train travel becomes difficult and hence a flight is booked. In certain cases, if the matter at hand is urgent or there will be considerable time to reach the place via rail then they are sent by flights,” he said.

He also informed that there is “no free flights policy” for ITBP and that the expenses for travel (by air and rail) when the ITBP personnel are deployed to various states during elections is borne by a fund with the Election Commission called ‘election funds’ in common parlance. “The money to these funds are contributed by both the state and the Centre since elections are a national event.”

BOOM also accessed news reports from May 2016 when elections were held in Kerala which inform that “Air India would be flying 3,000 troopers to Kerala from Kolkata for elections”.

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Screenshot of a Times of India article from May explaining why troops had to travel by air to Kerala.
Screenshot of a Times of India article from May explaining why troops had to travel by air to Kerala.
(Photo: BOOM LIVE)

An unnamed Air India official is quoted in all the stories as saying, “An Air India source told IANS that every day from 1 to 5 May, two Air India 777 flights that can accommodate 320 people each will fly in these para-military force personnel from West Bengal to Thiruvananthpuram. In all, there will be 10 flights that will land in Thiruvananthapuram with these forces and once here, they will be posted in various places of the state.” (Read here, here and here)

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(This story was first published on BOOM LIVE and has been republished with permission.)

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