New Delhi: An immediate result of constable Tej Bahadur Yadav’s viral video has been an unofficial clampdown on the use of cellular phones at some of the battalion kitchens and common areas. Company commanders are keeping a close eye. Perhaps other paramilitary forces are keeping a watch on their men and their phones.
Tej Bahadur used his cell phone and social media to complain of the poor quality of ration. In the video(s) posted on Facebook, which have since then received more than 10 lakh views, Yadav shows a watery soup-like dal, with turmeric, salt and without lentils, and burnt chapatti that was served in various meals. There is a tumbler of tea and an open tiffin in the background.
Home Ministry seeks a fact report by tomorrow from BSF over jawan's claim that poor quality food was being served to the soldiers.— ANI (@ANI_news) January 10, 2017
Taken serious note of a BSF Jawan video. But during my regular visit to border posts I find high level of satisfactions amongst the jawans.— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) January 10, 2017
Why is a “habitual offender” serving at a sensitive place?
Instead of addressing the red flags the constable raised in the videos, the BSF has chosen a well-rehearsed response — launching an enquiry and sending a senior officer to the location. A BSF statement gives details about Yadav’s difficult past. “A habitual offender of absenteeism without permission, chronic alcoholism, misbehaving and using force with superior officers, besides other acts against good order and discipline. For such reasons, individual has served mostly in headquarters under supervision of some dedicated superior officer. In spite of him being a bad hat, proper time has been devoted for individual's improvement as welfare to the individual,” the statement said.
Just why a man with such a troubled past was posted to what seems like a sensitive location is anyone’s guess.
Security forces, including paramilitary forces, have strict rules and guidelines about talking to the media and information sharing. In all likelihood, Yadav will face disciplinary action, once media attention slips from the poor quality of ration that is being supplied to jawans at the border. Perhaps, preempting this Yadav has already sought voluntary retirement from the BSF, effective January 31.
The last time a serving paramilitary jawan became a whistleblower, to complain about poor treatment, he was suspended. In 2014, News18.com carried the revelations of Sujoy Mondal, a CRPF jawan who came on camera and spoke about how Standard Operating Procedures were flouted during a Naxal operation. He spoke about terrible serving conditions and lack of help from his superiors. Investigation and an enquiry later, Sujoy Mondal was removed from the force.
In another report, that appeared in The Hindu in 2014, a commando at a camp of the CRPF’s elite anti-Naxal CoBRA force in Darbha, told the newspaper: “I am so sick of eating potatoes, soybean nuggets and one type of dal. How am I supposed to fight for a state that cannot even ensure a supply of vegetables for me?”
While Yadav’s allegations are not comparable to that of Sujoy Mondal’s, they point to a systemic rot in the system. Yadav in the video accuses officers of “illegally selling off” supplies meant for troops and added soldiers have to go to bed hungry at times. The BSF has dismissed these allegations further adding that Yadav had been posted at the location just 10 days ago.
What should a jawan get?
A 2014 Ministry of Home Affairs order says ration for a BSF jawan posted at the Line of Control should be at par with a soldier of the Indian Army. The government was allocating Rs 2,900/month per soldier. There is an additional special allowance of Rs 191 /month per soldier for dry fruits alone. Clearly most of this didn’t reach the plates of Tej Bahadur and his colleagues.
Deficiencies in ration supply chain practices and procurements have been brought to light in the past. The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament has pointed in the past as to how troops consume dry rations even 6-28 months after the expiry. In the case of fresh vegetables and fruits, 74% of the items issued to units by supply depots were not in accordance with the prescribed norms.
Towards the end of the video, Tej Bahadur says: “We ourselves unload the ration provided, so we know, but we don't get to eat it.” It’s a tragic, grim reality of what soldiers at the border are facing — inadequate food. This time, the enemy is this side of the border.