Turning BSF Into ‘Border Dance Force’ Demeans Sanctity of Uniform

The performance at cultural program by BSF personnel on I-day does the forces’ image no favours.

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
BSF soldiers perform during a ceremony to mark Independence Day celebrations at the India-Pakistan Wagah border post near Amritsar on 15 August 2017.
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The song and dance performance by the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at Attari on Independence Day has drawn a lot of criticism on social media.

There have been several such tweets expressing similar sentiments.

In 2008-09, as the Principal Staff Officer in Punjab, I recall recommending the Inspector General to refrain from the portrayal of mahila constables as ‘trophies’, following a request from an Amritsar-based BSF DIG for a similar function at Attari.

The mahila constables who had been just inducted in the BSF and had not even completed their basic training for the specific tasks they were expected to perform.

Should Jawans Put on Shows for Civilians?

Some people have also come out in support of such a performance by BSF personnel, stating that the troops have an equal right to celebrate Independence Day. Comparisons have been drawn with certain shows on a particular news channel in which film personalities interact with soldiers.

However, most of the officers with whom I have interacted are opposed to any such performance meant for civilians. What the supporters fail to realise is that the performance by jawans at a function for the forces is different from a performance for civilians.

The moot point is whether the troops should be performing for civilians or not. It is important to ensure that the troops perform the core function for which they’ve been employed. However, the authorities in the name of increasing public awareness about BSF, are increasingly diverting troops from their core functions, whether male or female personnel, and utilising them in non-essential activities.

Also Read: They Matter Too: Why BSF Men Get Fewer Allowances Than Army Jawans

Sheer Waste of Manpower

In 2016, a report by the India Today channel highlighted that around 1,200 troops were withdrawn from the borders for a prolonged period due to a farewell parade for the then DG. This happened at a time when the borders were witnessing heavy firing along with infiltrations. The defence for such criminal wastage of manpower was that they were following tradition.

Similarly, an annual fete used to be held at Delhi with large number of troops, supervisory officers and other resources directed for the same even from the farthest frontier for long duration at a huge cost to the exchequer and thereby adversely affecting operational activities. A couple of DGs put an end to this practice but it was restarted soon after they demitted office.

The annual fete was discontinued after 2015, however repeated withdrawal of troops and thinning of strength at borders is borne at the expense of various peripheral activities.

Trivial Activities

While grooming few personnel for sports-related activities is important for a uniformed force like the BSF, focus on peripheral activities often dilutes the operational profile. This appears to be happening now days with BSF as well. Concerned authorities seem to believe that public recognition for the BSF can be garnered through such activities and therefore the focus has been shifted elsewhere.

So even while the annual fete is discontinued, it has been replaced by a BSF Wives Welfare Association-related activity on Women’s Day showcasing the prowess of our men and women through stunts on motorcycles and mock displays of unarmed combat capabilities at Rajiv Chowk. More such ‘frivolous’ activities have been introduced.

For example, around 100 personnel are undergoing a training program, “Shiv Yoga”. Troops, specially women personnel, are extensively used for activities related to BSF Wives Welfare Association (BWWA).

Taking Women Out of the Field Has Negative Effects

A necessity for inducting women in BSF was felt after the erection of fence along the borders, since women going across could not be frisked by male constables. Ad-hoc arrangement of requisitioning services of ladies from nearby villages was not effective.

Thus, women were inducted in BSF for field duties in 2008 when 637 women constables were recruited.

The number of women constables in BSF, over the years, has risen to about 4,500 (about half of these are still receiving training). It is set to rise to 15 percent of the total strength of the force. Initially deployed in Punjab, they are now spread over the borders in Rajasthan and Bengal as well.

The leaders in BSF must realise that as the first line of defence, they have an important responsibility. As the only visible arm of administration in remote border areas, they are expected to function as the eyes and ears of the government and help the civil administration in these areas.

Withdrawal of mahila constables is especially problematic because that makes it difficult for the womenfolk to go across the fence and assist in farming.

Maintaining the Sanctity of Uniform

I am in agreement with Shekhar Gupta when he says that the song and dance performance of the type done by BSF troops at Attari on Independence Day is not in good taste and actually demeans the sanctity of uniform. It also gives an impression that this is the USP of the force.

The forces should therefore strive to earn a fair name on strength of operational excellence and constructive contribution to nation building instead of frittering away energy on these activities.

Hopefully the leadership is listening and will take corrective measures in the future.

(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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