Victims of neglect

There is a definite need to pay higher risk allowances to personnel of the para-military forces deployed in highly sensitive areas.

The recent outburst of a Border Security Force jawan Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav about the poor sta­ndard of food followed by a video of another jawan of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) going viral about the lack of facilities like medical cover, pension and such other benefits have drawn the attention of the powers that be.

Frantic efforts are suddenly being made to study and redress the grievances of the personnel of the paramilitary forces. Soon followed the report of an incident of a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) Constable Balbir Singh killing four of his colleagues in Aurangabad district of Bihar ostensibly for reasons of being denied leave. He was reported to be mentally unstable and had a bad history of brutally attacking his wife and had even nearly strangulated a taxi driver.

On January 21, 2017 a jawan of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Iqbal Singh committed suicide in Madhubani for reasons that are yet to be probed though initial investigations attribute it to service conditions. Not to be left behind, an army jawan too jumped into the fray to air his grievances against the orderly system wherein jawans known as ‘sahayaks’ perform menial jobs for the officers. The Army Chief was quick to counter the allegation saying that the buddy system was working well and warned his men to keep away from airing their grievances through the social media.

These recent incidents prove that all is not well in the paramilitary forces and of course in the army too. But what calls for immediate attention and action is the fact that a grievance aired by the BSF jawan had an immediate impact on other forces too. Soon followed a series of airing of grievances on the social media by personnel from other forces too. But for the immediate stringent measures taken by the officials of these forces, perhaps it would have had a cascading effect which could have proved malefic for the forces and the nation.

It should not be forgotten that the forces like the CRPF and the CISF have had a history of mass protests and strikes in the past. The army too has not been immune to strikes and mutiny. Officers undergoing training at various paramilitary and military academies are usually advised to pay special attention to three aspects of personnel under their charge: prompt payment of their salaries, tasty and timely food, and timely grant of leave. These secrets of man management in the forces will stand them in good stead throughout their career.

Any lapse in these important man management mantra could prove costly. And these are the very reasons for disaffection among the personnel for the forces in recent days. There are standing regulations in place to ensure that all personnel get the best of food in all the forces. Subordinate officers (SOs), as they are known in the paramilitary forces, of the rank of assistant sub-inspector/sub-inspector/inspector are tasked everyday to taste the food and check the quality in the mess and submit a report the following day to the unit adjutant which goes to the commanding officer (CO) of the battalion.

Daily roll calls
A week officer of the rank of assistant commandant or deputy commandant is detailed every week to visit all the messes to check the quality of meals served to the men and he submits his report to the CO through the adjutant. It is only when these regulations are given a go-by that complaints begin to pour in. For airing their grievances, the personnel have the channel of daily roll calls held in the evenings in all units where too, the men have the opportunity to project their problems. Monthly sainik sammelans offer another opportunity to personnel to get their grievances redressed.

These are formal drills where officers conducting sammelans first address the men apprising them of the latest orders/notifications received from various authorities. After this they ask the men to come up with their grievances one by one. The points that are to be addressed at their level are sorted out by the officers and the rest that are beyond their powers are forwarded to higher formations for redressal. With such mechanisms in place, there ought to be no scope for the jawans to take to social media to air their grievances and invite penal action.

That there is a wide parity in emoluments between the defence personnel and the paramilitary forces for similar nature of duties in same place is a widely accepted fact. From time to time these matters have been projected in the right quarters but the redressal has been tardy. Rather than taking a balanced view, there is a proclivity to compare the emoluments and other privileges with the defence services to ensure that in no wise they are above the defence services or at par with them. This stunted view of the bureaucrats has led to disaffection among the rank and file of the paramilitary personnel.

On the other hand, there is a definite need to pay higher risk allowances to the personnel of the paramilitary forces deployed in highly sensitive areas of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and Bihar where they not only live in pathetic conditions but also face the risk of losing their lives in anti-Maoist operations – much more riskier than even deployment in Siachen. Patrolling over long distance in such dangerous terrain where every step is fraught with the danger of stepping on a mine or being ambushed by the Maoists have an adverse impact on the psyche of the personnel deployed there.

The fact that the personnel of the paramilitary forces who joined service after 2004 are not entitled to pensions whereas personnel of the defence services are entitled to pensions is a sore point agitating them and calls for immediate redressal by the government.

(The writer is a retired Inspector General of Police, CRPF)
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