It is amusing to see the media and others on social media denigrating the Border Security Force (BSF), after the video of a jawan, claiming that troopers are provided with food of poor quality, went viral.
I am purposely not referring to the previous allegations, related to the jawan’s conduct and discipline, for fear of being dubbed pro-establishment and out to malign an individual.
While conceding that aberrations do occur with respect to the administration of a particular unit or sub-unit, it is totally incorrect to paint the entire organisation as deviant.
I have served in the organisation for over 38 years, from the lowest rung to the highest, that is available to a BSF cadre officer, and have no hesitation in saying that the claims of the jawan are totally false and reek of vendetta.
The media is bent upon sensationalising the issue in a bid to gain higher TRPs. They lapped up the videos posted on Facebook by the individual and started airing them with sensational titles.
I watched the Times Now correspondent talking to the jawan on the phone. It was ironic when the correspondent stated that the jawan was facing threats and claimed that he wasn’t being allowed to talk to his family members.
If that was the case, how was he able to talk to the correspondent for almost five minutes? The reporter stated that the jawan was talking to him from a hiding place, without even bothering to verify the claim.
None of the journalists cared to verify the facts before putting out the story. Did the media notice that the individual was dressed in full winter attire in the video? Did the media spot a utensil that contained fish – prepared the way the troops like it – in the video? Why were there no comments or views on these aspects?
Heart of the Problem
Was the tea and the burnt roti, that the jawan displayed in the video, actually served to him? Or did he just pick them up from the leftovers? Did the media stop to verify this aspect?
If the media is bent upon sensationalising and projecting this one-off incident as a general malady that ails the entire force, then they need to introspect.
Meanwhile, another video of a CRPF jawan has come to light. In the video, the jawan talks of the general dissatisfaction among the paramilitary personnel.
Also Read: After BSF Jawan, CRPF Man Alleges Discrimination Over Facilities
What he talks about is something that deserves the attention of policymakers. The press would do a great service to these organisations by highlighting these problems.
There has been a systematic failure on the part of the government and bureaucrats in addressing the issues.
The salaries of BSF jawans are much lower than that of army soldiers, even though both groups carry out the same duties. A BSF trooper may be deployed alongside an army jawan along the Line of Control, but he earns as much as 25 percent less than his counterpart.
A BSF jawan can hope to be promoted to the next rank only after having put in over 20 years of service. The proliferation of ranks at the next level wreaks havoc on the structure of sub-units.
Similar is the case with officers who get to become second-in-command of a unit only after over 20 years of service. The structure of the unit was fiddled with during the recent cadre review, an activity that was held after 25 years as opposed to the DoPT instructions which demand that it be held once every five years.
The BSF has served the nation for over 51 years. However, a number of Border Observation Posts (BOPs) still lack essential facilities. The jawans put in a lot of hard work, with duty hours sometimes exceeding 14-15 hours per day. However, many of them are deprived of proper barracks and even water supply at many of the BOPs. The problem is further aggravated by unplanned growth of the organisation, both in the number of units and large-scale induction of men at all levels.
Course Correction and Introspection
While on one hand, the BSF personnel are deprived of promotions, on the other hand, there is no indication that the provisions of “Assured Career Progression” and “Non Functional Upgradation” will be extended to the force.
However, the Honourable High Court of Delhi has pronounced a judgement directing the government to extend these facilities. The implementation would have, to some extent, mitigated the grievances.
The problem lies in the fact that these organisations are led by IPS officers who are transient in the organisation and, with some honourable exceptions, have no stakes.
When questioned about their way of sensationalising the video of the BSF jawan, some media persons have raised the bogey of “shooting the messenger”.
Well, this piece is not aimed at questioning their professionalism. But should they not have verified facts from the authorities before airing them?
The organisations concerned should take remedial measures to set things right. This is beyond contest; but perhaps, what this episode also calls for is some introspection on the part of media.
(The writer retired from the BSF as an additional director-general. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)