Recently Parliamentary Standing Committee (Home) visited Jammu and Kashmir to assess the border situation with Pakistan and our paramilitary forces. The members of the committee not only visited the place, they also heard the grievances of the local community which is a very important aspect in addressing the issues of the people in that region. It is also well known to most of us that Border Security Force (BSF) protects our border with Pakistan as well as Bangladesh. This article aims to throw some light on the issues faced by the BSF jawans, in particular, and paramilitary forces in general, which were revealed to this author during personal interactions with them.
BSF is one of the Central Armed Police Force or paramilitary force. It was formed after 1965 Indo – Pak war to protect the borders. It is the jawans of the BSF who withstand the chilly weather of Himalayas as well as the burning sun of Jaisalmer and Rann of Kutch. They are proud to protect the borders.
However, they are not very happy with the way they are treated by the government. Of course, all paramilitary force personnel demand One Rank One Pension (OROP) for themselves too. It is quite natural for them to ask for it when the military personnel are getting it. But this is a very recent demand that too which has intensified after government provided OROP for military forces.
But there are many other long standing demands from them which could be done without much burden for the government. Paramilitary forces face relative deprivation in comparison with military forces. They have a feeling of discrimination despite working in equal terms with defence forces or sometimes even more.
For example, they do not have any quota for themselves to travel in railways, whereas the military personnel enjoy the benefit of the quota. So, they have to struggle to get a train ticket to reach home and return to duty as their leaves are sanctioned at a short notice and even though they are eligible to travel in 3tier AC coaches in Indian railways, often they don’t get it due to long waiting list. Getting a ticket even in a sleeper coach becomes difficult for them and hence most of them travel with a general ticket. How unfortunate it is. Over and above this, in case if they come and occupy an empty berth in sleeper class, then travelling ticket examiners (TTE) abuse them, harass them without considering that he is the soldier who is protecting us. This must be really offensive for them.
Even with regard to availability of educational facilities for their children, they feel they are not on equal terms with defence forces. They do show their displeasure about poor hospital facilities for them even at their duty sites. The same is true back home. They don’t get exemptions or benefits for their family members like the military personnel gets. So, they often say “agar hamaare ghar parivaar ko khush nahi rakh paayenge, to aise kaam karne kaa kyaa phaaidaa?” (what is the use of working so hard if I can’t keep my family happy).
Most importantly, even if a paramilitary force jawan starts thinking about the ideal of becoming a martyr which is above all these normal aspects of life, then also there is no motivating factor for him. If paramilitary personnel die during his duty to the country, he doesn’t get the same status as the military personnel. Until recently, they were not getting ‘martyr’ status too. Home Ministry of Government of India, in July 2015, has decided to give ‘martyr’ (shaheed) status to personnel of all Central police organizations who are killed in the line of duty. But the kin of ‘Shaheed’ won’t get any financial benefit which is available for military personnel. Isn’t it a demotivating factor?
Government needs to look at these aspects and address the issues. Paramilitary forces do need better facilities and recognition. Then only “Jai Jawan” slogan given by our former Prime Minister Lal Bahaddur Shastri will be really meaningful.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)