Probe into BSF jawan’s charge must inspire confidence

By Sandeep Sahu

It was predictable. The response of the Border Security Force (BSF) to the serious allegations of corruption and pilferage leveled against its senior officers by jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav was entirely along the time-tested Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that officialdom has followed diligently over the years.

In the best traditions of this SOP, there was not a word about the allegation of poor quality food served to jawans serving in the tough, high altitude terrain of trouble-torn Jammu & Kashmir – except for a vague assurance that did not reassure anyone, least of all the whistleblower – but a litany of charges against him in the ‘official’ reaction of the paramilitary force.

Yadav was accused of everything from absenteeism to insubordination and from indiscipline to alcoholism by BSF. “Constable Tej Bahadur as an individual has a difficult past. From initial days of his career, he needed regular counselling. Different correction mechanics have been applied for the individual’s welfare as he was habitual offender of absenteeism without permission, chronic alcoholism, misbehaving and using force with superior officers and certain other acts against good order and discipline,” the BSF said in its official statement.

In an effort to show how ‘considerate’ the force is to its personnel, Inspector General (IG) DK Upadhyay  said Yadav was about to be court martialled in 2010 but was spared in view of his family. He even wondered aloud whether anyone can pilfer food stuff meant for the soldiers. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the IG raised questions on how he was carrying a mobile phone on duty against the rules.

In short, the whistle-blowing jawan was indicted even before the inquiry ordered into his allegations has begun!

Assuming that the ‘official’ BSF reaction is correct leads to the inevitable question: why was this man with a ‘difficult past’ who needed ‘regular counselling’ manning a high altitude post near the international border? Was it part of the ‘counselling’ process or ‘punishment’ for his alleged past sins? Why wasn’t he posted at a BSF camp or group centre where he had better chances of recovering from his supposed ‘illness’?

Let us now consider the charges levelled by Yadav. For all the scepticism expressed by the BSF IG about their veracity, the video posted by him about burnt paratha and watery dal doesn’t appear to have been ‘cooked up’.  Though it would be a mistake to use this case to conclude that the situation is the same in every BSF camp, there is no reason to dismiss the allegation as the work of a ‘bad hat’ out to discredit the whole force.

There is no limit to human greed and it is entirely possible that a particularly greedy officer thought nothing of siphoning away ration meant for jawans and serving them crumbs. One just has to remember the frequent allegations of pilferage of food stuff meant to be served to school children as mid day meal (MDM) by teachers and staff to realise that such a thing is eminently possible. [And don’t give me all that crap about the armed forces being above all this. We have all seen that there are officers in every armed force who are as greedy and unscrupulous as their counterparts in civilian India. Nothing is sacrosanct anymore after a former Air Force chief has been charged – though not convicted – of receiving bribes to push a dubious defence deal.]

The least that the nation expects now is a fair and transparent inquiry that inspires confidence. But the BSF’s initial response creates legitimate apprehensions that this inquiry could well go the way of all previous inquiries that have sought to bury the truth rather than unravel it.

As a party that never tires of proclaiming its pro-jawan credentials, it is incumbent on the BJP government at the Centre to convince the nation that it is not out to sweep the whole thing under the carpet in the mistaken belief that it would embarrass the forces and to show that it is determined to get to the bottom of the issue and apply corrective measures if the allegations are found true.