The angst of ex-servicemen over ‘One Rank One Pension (OROP)’ and other demands has been hogging headlines for quite some time, with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar now assuring that ‘99 percent cases’ will be settled within this month itself. Nearly 20 lakh retired soldiers have been paid due pension benefits, for which the Central government has already spent Rs 6,300 crore as back arrears out of Rs 10,800 crore estimated. Our soldiers are stoically bearing their own cross, deployed frequently to counter insurgents as much as Pakistan-supported terrorists. A recent army report on ‘Future Core Technologies and Problem Statements’ details just one aspect of risks soldiers are bearing over lack of smart body armour, sniper scopes and night-vision gear to outdated and dangerous fuel storage. But looking elsewhere, personnel belonging to paramilitary, border security and other forces too have grievances to vent, and some are doing it on social media. The act of going public in this manner has prompted concerned authorities to condemn ‘indiscipline’ in the ranks, but we are all living in a brave new world. With the ubiquitous and affordable smartphone, anyone can go online and air his grouse or blow the lid off some skullduggery. In the latest such incident, a CRPF constable has posted a video message to Prime Minister rendra Modi on YouTube, complaining of discrimition compared to the army and abysmal pay. Claiming that CRPF personnel are saddled with the most taxing security duties, but get no benefits, constable Jeet Singh asks: “The army has pension, we don’t have anything. Twenty years later, when I leave the service, then what?” In their anxiety not to let the matter get out of hand, top CRPF officials are now saying that the constable has ‘no complaints against the force’, rather he has an issue with soldiers getting OROP and is merely ‘aspiring for a better life’. In this context, they have pointed out that the CRPF has already brought pay and related issues to the knowledge of the Seventh Pay Commission.
It is clear that the CRPF wants to avoid the sort of embarrassment the BSF is currently faced with, after a BSF trooper posted a series of damaging videos on Facebook. Lamenting poor food, punishing work hours and humiliating treatment at the hands of officers, Tej Bahadur Yadav of the BSF has alleged that that troopers like him are starving because corrupt seniors are siphoning off their rations. “We don’t want to blame any particular government, because they give us everything we need. But it is our seniors who sell supplies meant for us to the local market, so it never reaches us,” he says in the video. He has uploaded visuals of the ‘parantha’ and tea for breakfast that he gets, without pickle or vegetables, as well as plain ‘dal’ and ‘roti’ for lunch — asking how a jawan can do his duty with food of such quality. Yadav has promised more videos to show troopers who ‘stand for 11 straight hours every day regardless of the extreme weather, but are treated in the worst possible way imagible’. After Yadav’s post raised a storm in social media with lakhs of users sharing and responding to it, the Prime Minister’s Office has now sought a report from the Home Ministry. Earlier, Home Minister Rajth Singh tweeted that he has sought a report from the BSF ‘to take appropriate action’, while his junior Kiren Rijiju said that a probe has been ordered to ascertain the quality of food served to jawans on the difficult borders, while a team of expert dieticians has been deputed to visit border outposts of security forces. However, top BSF officials could have reacted better by addressing the issues raised — instead of seeking to paint Yadav as mentally unstable, an alcoholic and habitual absentee with a history of indiscipline. Granted, the trooper may have a problem with authority, but the question immediately arises as to why he has been posted at the Line of Control in Kashmir, given such a record. While an entire force cannot be given a bad me on the basis of one trooper’s complaint, any issue affecting the rank and file (not just those of the top brass) needs careful looking into. The country has enough interl threats to deal with, and it can do without disaffected security personnel who do not get a fair hearing from the powers-be. The incident at Aurangabad on Thursday where a CISF personnel shot dead four colleagues in a dispute over leave, is but the latest instance of the kind of damage long-festering disgruntlement can do.