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BSF chief to report today on food for jawans

Union home minister Rajnath Singh has taken a serious view of allegations that poor quality food was being served to jawans deployed along the India-Pakistan border and has asked BSF director-general K.K. Sharma to submit an inquiry report by Wednesday.

By Our Bureau
  • Published 11.01.17
  •  

New Delhi, Jan. 10: Union home minister Rajnath Singh has taken a serious view of allegations that poor quality food was being served to jawans deployed along the India-Pakistan border and has asked BSF director-general K.K. Sharma to submit an inquiry report by Wednesday.

"It's a very touchy issue and highly sensitive to the welfare of troops. Rajnathji today instructed the DG BSF to submit the inquiry report by Wednesday," a senior home ministry official said.

"Strong action will be taken against those involved in the pilferage of rations meant for soldiers if the allegations are true," the official added.

The government had ordered the inquiry last night after a BSF constable's video posts alleging poor quality food went viral on social media. Havildar Tej Pratap Yadav, who was deployed in the Poonch area, also alleged that at times they were forced to sleep on an "empty stomach".

The videos led to an outcry on social media against the alleged ill-treatment being meted out to the soldiers defending the country's frontiers.

There are about 70 battalions of the army along the Line of Control (LoC) and around 15 of the BSF. Along the LoC, the BSF is operationally under the command of the army. The paramilitary force is otherwise the responsibility of the home ministry.

This arrangement often lends itself to inter-service quarrels between the army and the central paramilitary force.

Former BSF DG Prakash Singh said a detailed probe should be conducted. "It is a serious allegation and it seems there are some senior officials making money out of food items meant for soldiers," he said but added that one "stray incident" should not be generalised.

"It may be limited to one battalion to which Yadav belonged," he said.

Singh said posting videos on social media was an act of indiscipline as there was a proper channel for airing grievances. "Ours is a disciplined force and such acts should not be encouraged. It should be the last resort only if all options are exhausted."

Sources in the army said Yadav had recently been posted to the front from the hinterland in Jammu. One source said he had been sent back to Jammu since the video was uploaded about a week ago.

Along the LoC, food rations are distributed by the Army Supply Corps to the battalions and brigade headquarters or to other bases. From there, soldiers carry rations to their posts. The amount and the content depend on the posting and the classification of companies and the battalions they are part of.

The 29 battalion company of the BSF to which Yadav belongs was not in an area that is classified as "high altitude" which entitles troops to special rations.

Depending on the food culture of a particular battalion, the rations are classified as anda (egg) eaters, vegetarian and non-vegetarian. For example, a battalion dominated by Jats would prefer more milk and ghee to eggs. One dominated by Sikhs would prefer more chicken and meat to vegetarian fare. But the responsibility of cooking the food depends on the individual companies.

In the army the battalion commanders (usually colonels) and junior officers (lieutenant colonels, majors, captains and lieutenants) take turns in checking the quality of food during visits.

In this instance, too, the BSF company had its own cookhouse, also called langar. A company would have about three or four langars, depending on the extent of its deployment.

In areas where the BSF is under the operational command of the army, their companies are usually assigned to posts that are less sensitive than those manned by the army. But even then the terrain along the LoC is such that most posts are in difficult situations, particularly during winter, and many are directly susceptible to firing from the adversary.

Sources in the army doubt whether BSF officers have been regularly inspecting the quality of food served in the sections and platoons of their battalions.

Yadav is said to have applied for retirement by the end of this month.