Tej Bahadur Yadav, a BSF jawan from 29 BSF Battalion, posted four videos on Facebook on 08 Jan that went viral. Reason – he posted photos of having a burnt paratha and tea for breakfast, griped about poor food and living conditions of the jawans, selling of rations and fuel by the officers and in general appalling welfare of the troops. In its defence, the BSF averred poor disciplinary record of the jawan including charges of insubordination, intoxication and habitual absenteeism.
This sent the media into an overdrive, which true to form, castigated the officers and the system. Given the media tirade, it appears that the system is corrupt and officers are betraying their jawans. While this is untrue, however, for the benefit of the citizens who are not quite aware of the security forces functioning, let us look into the Army’s time tested system under field conditions.
Structurally, the sub division of Army battalion into companies, platoons and sections lends itself to effective monitoring of troop welfare and logistics. This hierarchical structure imposes regular checks and balances at functional level through effective monitoring and inspections, stock taking boards and systematic accounting procedures.
Operationally, Napoleon’s dictum that an Army marches on its stomach is true in the case of our Army too, which, besides regular provisioning, also carries out advance stocking of rations to cater for any eventuality like enemy action, natural disaster or communication breakdown.Stocking is a logistician’s nightmare which involves transporting thousands of tonnes of rations, fuel and other necessities from the bases right up to each remote and isolated post.
The Army carries it out through its well-oiled operational logistics chain that employs various means of transportation including aircrafts, helicopters, trucks, mules and even human porters. Besides, it also resorts to local provisioning where situation demands.
Functionally, the Army trains and teaches it leaders to look into the welfare of the men they command in line with Sun Tzu’s Art of War doctrine stating, “regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them, as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death”. Here, the officer-men relationship plays a crucial role. Ensuring a high standard of their langars is a matter of pride for the unit and sub-units, involving numerous checks and counter-checks. In remote posts, all officers eat from their company cookhouse (click on hyperlink to see movie that gives an insight into the cooking practices in Indian Army) sharing the same meals and rations as their men. And in operations and outdoors exercises, the camaraderie and bonding over meals is even more. I myself, have personally shared the same plate with my crew. In difficult conditions, the food may not be optimal, but is invariably substantial.
Aberrations in any system is a norm, and no organization must cover up such incidents. However, aberrations are not indicative of systemic failure because individuals will come and go but institutions stay. Uniformed forces are such institutions and are empowered to investigate and punish the guilty. Therefore, after performing its role to spread awareness, trial by media must stop. Also, let the public not get judgemental and form opinions about existence of rampant corruption in the forces. An Army officer passes out of the Academy, sworn to command his men through the Chetwodian leadership credo, “The safety, honour and welfare of your country comes first, always and everytime; the honour and welfare of the men you command come next; your own safety, honour and welfare comes last, always and everytime”. And it is a credo that we follow to the hilt
Raj, Very aptly put across.