One composition of satirist Swaroop Sampat started with “Seema par bhuna koi jata hai aur dilli mein bhunata koi aur hai” (The politicians encash the bravery of our jawans). He could not have made a more profound statement.
His point is proved by the fact that while the politicians have been quick to ‘encash’ the death of over forty CRPF personnel in the attack in Pulwama this February, and their sacrifices at so many other places, when it comes to giving them their dues, the government is found lacking.
The reports of non-payment of ration money allowance to over three lakh CRPF personnel, along with the salary for this month, is an apt example of this syndrome.
Release of Arrears to Jawans: No Favour Done, Really
The paramilitary forces including CRPF — the largest paramilitary force of India — have been doing a yeoman’s service to the nation in countering militancy in various parts of the country, and ensuring the security of India’s borders. The jawans of these forces are paid a ration money allowance of approximately Rs 3,600 per month, keeping in view the nutritional requirements for the type of physically strenuous tasks performed by them.
It is surprising as to how the government expects the soldiers to perform to their potential when they are not even properly fed.
The clarification — that the CRPF jawans had been paid ration money arrears up to July, and jawans have adequate funds to feed themselves — is nothing but an attempt to obfuscate the issue.
Implicit in the statement is the fact that those arrears were for “what was already consumed” i.e, the jawans had already incurred debt, and the arrear amount would not be available for the rations of the current month.
This also implies that the jawans were not being paid ration money for those six months. It therefore appears that the crisis has been brewing for some time now, and thus, no favour has been done to the jawans by releasing the arrears. Why were the arrears allowed to accrue in the first place?
Mismanagement by CRPF Leadership, Apathy & Procrastination
It is typical of the CRPF leadership to procrastinate on important issues like this. They do not seem to have learnt their lessons from Pulwama, where they allowed over 2,500 troops to assemble at CRPF transit camps in Jammu in February, in spite of lack of amenities at these camps, and in spite of repeated pleas of the Sector Commander, CRPF at Srinagar. It is beyond doubt that the tragedy at Pulwama could have been avoided, but for the callousness.
The episode further points to the mismanagement by the CRPF leadership which consists solely of elite IPS officers.
That they have been sending ‘reminders’ to the Ministry of Home Affairs for the release of funds, at best is an excuse to save their skin.
Why were they not more proactive in resolving the matter?
The DG, CRPF should have taken it upon himself to personally brief the home minister about the developing crisis. Besides that, the DG — by using his own financial powers — could have diverted funds from other heads towards payment of ration money, either from the government funds or from a large corpus of private funds available at his disposal. The DG, CRPF could also have instead stopped some not-so-urgent expenditures like those on travelling expense or some non-essential construction activity, and diverted funds for ration money. Such leaders probably have never heard of the adage “army marches on its stomach”.
Are Paramilitary Soldiers ‘Second-Class’ Soldiers According to the Govt?
The transient leadership of IPS officers, not familiar with the ethos of these forces, neither have vision nor any stakes for initiating any such proactive action. They are immune to the hardships faced by troops on ground, because they have neither worked on the ground nor grown with the organisation. Their sole aim is to mark their time in these organisations, till a regime favourable to their interests takes over in their cadre state.
The episode also points to the seeming apathy of the government towards the well-being of the soldiers of these central paramilitary forces.
It once again establishes that the paramilitary soldiers are considered only ‘second-class’ soldiers by the government. With no voice of their own to represent them, the government seems to wake up to their genuine demands only after things attain crisis proportions. That is why the long pending demand of risk and hardship allowance to the CPMF was sanctioned only after the Pulwama incident. The adverse publicity in that case too may spur them on to release the ration money allowance. Similar is the case with the grant of NFFU and NFSG, which, in spite of court orders, has not been implemented so far.
No Ration Money for CRPF: Economic Crisis & Trouble Ahead?
The moot point however is: why has such crisis arisen? It is for the first time in my association with the CPMF, that I have heard of ration money or any other allowance not being paid to jawans. That such denial will adversely affect the morale of CRPF personnel and thus their operational efficiency, is beyond doubt.
Such denial from a government, which accords very high priority to national security, is ominous.
It is another pointer of the weak economy and the crisis looming large. The state of the economy being beyond the scope of this piece, I would only recommend that urgent remedial measures are brought in to address both the state of the Indian economy as well as the leadership issues of these CPMF personnel, who are the mainstay of the security matrix of India.
(The writer retired from the BSF as additional director-general. He tweets @sood_2. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)