BSF Camp Attack: Contingency Plan Worked But Need Long-Term Vision
Addressing issues related to pay gap and policy will go a long way in boosting the morale of BSF.
I sit down to write this piece today with a great sense of pride after being a part of the Border Security Force for over 38 years. The pride emanates from the fact that the BSF troops carried out efficiently the operation to neutralise the suicide attack by militants on their camp in Srinagar.
The sense of pride is further heightened due to the fact that the youngsters whom one can partly claim to have groomed and mentored are leading from the front, handling difficult situations and earning a good name for the organisation.
Another Uri-like Incident Averted
Heavily armed militants sneaked into the campus of 182 Bn BSF at Humama, Srinagar close to the airport in the early hours of 3 October. All the three militants belonging to the JeM were eliminated in a highly professional manner.
Since the campus is located in a densely populated area, use of Automatic Grenade Launchers (AGLs) mortars i.e. area weapons was not possible fearing casualties among civilians. The alert BSF jawans foiled another Uri-like incident following their quick reaction to the attack and by suitably adapting their tactic to the fast developing situation.
Things may and do go wrong while operating in a hostile environment, but the manner in which the situation is retrieved depends on the leadership qualities of the commander-on-spot, besides the training and professionalism of the troops he’s leading.
So, while the skeptics may ask as to how the militants managed to sneak in, I would leave it for the mandatory “Court of Enquiry” to establish and suggest remedial measures. However, it must be brought out that the campus of the unit has a proper perimeter wall only on two sides.
Regular Drills Came in Handy
Ashwini, the Commandant of the 182 Battalion BSF, led from the front to eliminate three Jaish militants with minimum collateral damage. Unfortunate death of one ASI and injuries to other soldiers was in the first flush of fire by militants, while these jawans were sleeping inside their barracks.
Unlike many such operations in recent times where the militants managed to occupy vantage positions and engage with the troops for long, in this particular operation the BSF jawans eliminated all the militants quickly.
The success achieved by the troops in this operation would not have been possible without practicing drills evolved for such contingencies. That the Commandant ensured the contingency plan is followed, stands proven beyond doubt.
This is what the Commanders are expected to do – evolve drills, practice them and ensure they are implemented during operations. Another aspect that the commanders are expected to ensure is to prevent complacence from setting in, which starts happening over a period of time when nothing seems to be happening. Fatigue sets in and the troops tend to commit mistakes.
Effective communication among commanders is another important aspect of operations against militants, ensured by the company commanders and the Commandant yesterday.
Disparity in Pay Continues to Irk BSF Personnel
That the militants received effective resistance from troops after a long time in such fidayeen attacks is another reason for being elated at the performance of troops. Militants cannot take things for granted now, especially if the lessons learnt from this operation are analysed and implemented effectively by all security forces deployed in Kashmir as well as in other militancy or Maoism-affected areas.
It would also be an appropriate occasion for the government to revisit its stand of treating the employees of Central Armed Force like BSF as civilian employees.
Disparity in pay and perks vis-a-vis the defence forces and discontinuation of pension, despite performing same tasks as the Army along with assisting the defence forces in war efforts has a negative impact on the morale of troops. Such unfair treatment is the reason behind disquiet amongst the BSF personnel as is evident from the figures placed in Parliament about the number of personnel opting for voluntary retirement from the service.
Allowing BSF Officers to Take Decisions on Policy
Another policy that the government needs to review is handing over supervisory and policy level leadership of BSF to the cadre itself. Ashwini who has put in almost 28 years of service and many more extremely capable officers stand a very remote chance of rising further in service, thus depriving the organisation the benefit from their rich experience.
These officers being rooted to ground have intricate knowledge of psychology of troops and ethos of the force unlike a deputationist officer, leading to the formulation of policies which are neither in the interest of the force nor nation.
Thus the morale of operational level leadership is adversely affected and efficiency of organisation compromised.
It is recommended that the government should take urgent steps to rectify the situation for improving overall efficiency and uplifting morale of the force.
(The writer retired from the BSF as an additional director-general. The views expressed above are the author’s own. He can be reached @sood_2 .The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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