Fewer Promotions and Pay-Disparity Are Making BSF Cadres Restive
Rigid rules of hierarchy, coupled with pay gap, as compared to the Army, is adding to the woes of BSF troops.
Last week, I received the following photograph through WhatsApp from a civilian friend, along with a comment that if this is the standard of leadership in the CRPF, then only god can help them. The photograph shows the new CRPF Director General wearing a BSF cap.
Owing to my skepticism, I asked an officer to verify whether the man in that photo was actually the DG CRPF. The officer verified the same, and later next day, all my doubts were removed when the same friend forwarded the following news clipping.
The sight of the head of an organisation, as important as the CRPF, wearing a cap of another force is symptomatic of the callousness and disdain with which these deputationists from the IPS look at their responsibilities.
Fact is that regular induction of such officers in the Central Armed Forces of the Union like the BSF, CRPF, etc is no longer required, as these officers are not equipped to deal with the complexities – operational, logistics and administrative management – of such large forces.
This results in severe compromise of the efficiency of these vital components of the national security apparatus. Being an ex-BSF officer, I would focus on my experiences in the paramilitary force. However, this generally applies to other central armed forces too.
Brewing Anger and Frustration
The single most critical factor for efficient and effective functioning of any uniformed fighting force is morale. That the morale of the troops is at its lowest is evident in a reply by the Home Ministry in Parliament, indicating that the rate of voluntary retirement in the force has gone up by 450 percent since 2016.
Even after 51 years of existence of the BSF, IPS officers continue to occupy top positions, and the very transient nature of parachuted leadership they provide, prevents them from developing any vested interest in familiarising themselves about organisational ethos and operational philosophy.
It is to the BSF’s credit that the cadre officers, who are continuously deployed at the BOPs (Border Out Posts), are sensitive towards the problems of jawans, with the result that the organisation retains the distinction of being the only uniformed force in the country that has never gone on strike.
We are, however, sitting on a tinderbox because this cadre of officers is becoming restive and demoralised due to double jeopardy of not only being deprived of promotion, but also of rightful financial benefits.
Unlike all other paramilitary services, the BSF’s rules are such that a cadre officer can never become the DG. Most BSF officers barely reach the level of commandant, ie equivalent of two promotions in a service span of almost 35 years. Only a few become DIGs, and barely 1 percent become IGs.
With only one post for additional DG being available for the cadre, just 11 officers have reached this level so far, for a period ranging between a few days to a few months. The situation will worsen further due to erratic and heavy intake during the last decade. These officers face a bleak future with just one likely promotion during their entire service.
The callousness of IPS leaders towards the BSF cadre is such that the Delhi High Court had to direct mandatory review of the cadre, due for almost 30 years, despite the government guidelines calling for such a review every five years.
The fact that the “IPS Officers Association” has filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order, granting status of “Organised Service” and “Non-Functional Upgradation” to BSF cadre officers, on grounds that it will curtail avenues of IPS, clearly establishes that furtherance of their own interests is what concerns them.
The situation of personnel who are below the officers in hierarchy is even worse.
A jawan can expect just one promotion in an entire career spanning between 20-22 years. Earlier, there were intermediary ranks of L/Nk and Naik before Head Constable, which the IPS leadership, in their wisdom, got abolished, leading to severe command and control problems besides demoralising BSF cadres.
Unplanned expansion and recruitment over last few years, besides playing truant with career growth of personnel, has also diluted standards of training by overburdening training institutions which have limited infrastructure. This has direct implications on efficiency of the force, as trainees coming out of the Academy are professionally and mentally inadequate to withstand pressures of life at borders.
The leadership that is unaware of ground realities, failed to convince the government about the irrationality of raising a Seventh Company in each unit instead of intact units. This led to severe administrative, operational and personnel management problems by overburdening the Command by 20 -25 percent. One is, therefore, not surprised to see videos uploaded by the likes of Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav.
Disparity in Pay
Pension and other allowances for those deployed on harsh terrain was never projected logically to the Pay Commission, resulting in severe heartburn amongst troops, especially when BSF troops are deployed alongside the Army on the line of control.
Withdrawing forces from borders and frequent deployment for elections hampers border security, resulting in increase in crime, and thus compromise the nation’s security. The government must seriously review this policy, considering the negative impact of withdrawing the force from the borders.
Baton to Professionals
The operational command is further constrained by the restrictions imposed in handling operations on a daily basis. For example, the troops in the East have been ordered not to open fire on cattle smugglers. As a result, casualties amongst BSF troops are increasing. The troops are, therefore, reluctant to resort to firing even when faced with threat for fear of facing disciplinary action.
The IPS leadership has a tendency to treat BSF as a police force, which is the reason for ignoring the importance of regimentation, something they tried to fiddle with a few years ago. MHA orders were sought in order to rescind such moves.
IPS leadership is increasingly failing to inspire the organisation because of its inability to comprehend the dynamics of organisation and border management, which is a specialised task, entirely different from policing. It is therefore high time to pass on the baton of leadership of this elite organisation to its own professional cadre of experienced and matured officers.
(The writer retired from the BSF as an additional director-general. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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