Former BSF officer slams jawan and media for portraying wrong picture
By the time they sent out reporters, the damage to the reputation of this fine force had already been done.
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Today, early morning, I was woken by the persistent ringing of my phone. Feeling groggy, I asked the caller whether all was well at the borders, and was rudely woken to the reality of having retired when I heard a friend’s voice on the other end.
The friend asked me whether I had seen the reports of a BSF jawan alleging corruption by senior officers and uploading videos of bad food served on the posts. He followed it up by sending the report on WhatsApp. Many other friends did the same.
Upon switching on the TV, I found tickers on the screen announcing the same to the world. Twitter was abuzz with the same story and I learnt that the videos uploaded by the BSF jawan on Facebook had already seen 4 million views.
In the video, the jawan alleges that food served to the forces is of poor standard. He says that while the government provides all facilities, it is the higher-ups in the force who pilferage and sell these off in the market.
He alleges that the jawans to carry out arduous duties with whatever food and equipment that trickles down to them after pilferage.
Having cross-checked some facts, I have found that the unit concerned is deployed under the operational control of the Indian Army on the Line of Control. The unit is drawing rations supplied by the Army, which is equivalent to a lavish 3,900 calories per day.
The jawan, after having spent all his life at the headquarters, was sent to a base only about 10 days ago. This base mainly serves as a transit point for rest and acclimatisation of troops before they are sent for duties to high altitude posts. The duties at this base are generally restricted to campus security.
The ration stores at this base are stocked well before snowfall and it is impossible to pilferage any of these items because of intricate system of checks and balances and accounting procedures. Moreover, there is no need for commanders to pilferage because they are also entitled to the same food as the jawans.
The winter stock of food articles comprises tinned items because providing fresh vegetables etc. is not possible. Therefore, the troops do face a problem of food being less tasty than when they get fresh vegetables and meat.
Surprisingly, another utensil can be seen in the video which appears well-sprinkled with condiments as the jawans like it, but there is no word on this either from the jawan or the media.
The jawan also appears healthy in the video, which would not have been possible if he had been underfed. He is also wearing a proper winter jacket and other kit which speaks well of the administration in the unit.
Not discounting the possibility of some mismanagement at the local level, I can say this with all authority at my disposal that this is a one-off incident and cannot be treated as the norm. Almost all our commanders take personal interest in the welfare of troops, be it food, leave or welfare of their families. All efforts are made to redress their grievances.
Therefore, the tilt of TV and print media suggesting that this is an all-pervasive malaise in the armed forces is unfortunate.
It also emerges that the jawan concerned has been tried in the past for several offences, including assaulting a senior officer. He has posted hateful material on his Facebook page as well.
Used to the comparatively softer life of headquarters, the jawan was loath to go to the base camp – a fact which the media has ignored – and also that he is proceeding on voluntary retirement on January 31.
The BSF has ordered an inquiry into the matter and the culprits if any would be taken to task.
However, it is essential that due caution is exercised in reporting these matters and facts are duly verified.
It is also incorrect to blow a one-off incident disproportionately and give a one-sided story without verifying the truth.
The media did send out reporters to find out details but it was too late and by then, the damage to the reputation of this fine force has already been done.
This reminds me of an article by Jugal Purohit published on DailyO a couple of days ago. He very profoundly brings out the pitfalls of Twitter and Facebook journalism that we seem to be witnessing these days.