For whom the woods weep...

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by Patriot, Mar 21, 2011.

  1. Patriot

    Patriot Senior Member Senior Member

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    For whom the woods weep...


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    Frontier sentinels: BSF jawans at an Indo-Bangla border outpost



    SPECIAL REPORT: Braving snakes, wild animals, rain and cold, they keep vigil day and night. Without food, shelter or dignity. For all their gallantry, Border Security Force jawans get peanuts and pain.


    It’s 5.30 p.m. in the Umkiang forest. At a Border Security Force border outpost on a hilltop, jawans are making chapatti and sabzi, which they would carry along with some tea and their weapons into the jungle for a night’s stay. It is getting dark as we trek through the forest to where the jawans would keep vigil on the Indo-Bangla border. The chirping of birds has been replaced by croaking of frogs and other sounds of the night. The overarching trees appear like ghosts. Five kilometres down the path is a small nullah. Beyond it, Bangladesh.

    “If you want to know how we live and feel, you should see us in the jungle,” says a BSF jawan posted in the snake-infested Umkiang forest on the Indo-Bangla border in Meghalaya. Another jawan explains the misery: “Kya bataun saab? Humari zindagi to jaanwar ki tarah hai. Kisiko maalum nahin hum kaise har pal desh ke liye dete hain (What can I say, sir? We live like animals. Nobody knows how we suffer every moment for the nation).”

    Ashwini Kumar keeps watch behind a bush. A thermal imager serves as his eyes in the dark. The device detects approaching humans or animals from their body temperature. He will remain here without light or shelter amid snakes, jackals and other wild animals till his duty gets over in the morning. The 40-year-old BSF jawan from Punjab has been doing this for the past six months.

    There are no clear roads in the forest, which terrorists and smugglers use to sneak into India. The BSF has no choice but to make jawans like Ashwini live in the forest, where winters are wet and cold. “My colleagues keep vigil some distance from here. We take inspiration from each other,” says Ashwin.
    In his 19 years with the BSF, Ashwin has conquered fear. He says he has killed two to three venomous snakes in one night. “Every night we kill animals with daggers. It has become a routine. What else can we do?” he asks. “Life on the border involves encounters every day. It’s the most important job in the country. If we fail, the enemy will sneak in.”

    The son of a poor farmer, Ashwini joined the BSF to serve the nation. Now he wants to quit. His wife is with the electricity department in Punjab. Ashwini has remained where he was 15 years ago, without promotion. “My wife is working and my children want me to return. Why should I stay back? I have serious health problems. I will quit within a year,” he says.

    At another border outpost, K.D. Prakash peers through his binoculars. His machine gun at the ready, he spans the border. He has killed seven infiltrators in Kashmir and the northeast in his 12 years with the BSF. But he isn’t the hardened soldier when he returns to his barrack to have a nap, sometimes only for two hours. He throws himself into bed and weeps, hiding his face in the pillow. In serving the country’s most important paramilitary force, he could not hold on to what was most important to him: his wife and son.

    A resident of Karnataka, Prakash married 10 years ago. Soon after, he was posted in Srinagar. His wife wanted to go with him. “How could I take her to a war zone? There were bullets whizzing past. We were involved in counter-insurgency. Is that a place to take your beloved one?” he asks.

    He could go home only once a year. Five years after the marriage, his wife fell in love with another man. “One day I saw a man’s photo in my wife’s mobile phone. Initially, she denied having any relationship with him. But later, she admitted she was in love with him. She said my five years in Kashmir had caused the break-up,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes. “I have filed for divorce and am paying 06,000 as maintenance to her. She has taken my dear son with her. He is not even allowed to see me.”

    A Class 12 drop-out, Prakash joined the BSF inspired by the the Kargil war. He enjoyed the challenges in J&K, Rajasthan and the northeast. Now he looks forward to retirement. “I don’t want to continue. After completing 20 years of mandatory service, I will go to my village and start life afresh,” he says.
    Abdur Rahman of Jammu had joined the force to be part of the action against Pakistani militants. But after 20 years without promotion, he wants to quit. “I have never brought my wife and kids with me to the border. They are in Haryana. I want to quit, as I need more money and benefits. I want to put my son in an English medium school. I will get a job in the private sector,” he says. If he were in the Army, he says, he would have retired as a junior commissioned officer.

    On the northeastern border, he cooks food on rotation, washes his clothes and guards the border. He leaves with his team early morning and walks 20km to ‘zero point’ where he keeps vigil. But upon reaching zero point, they are too tired. “We feel sleepy and don’t even have the energy to think,” he says. “But we cannot allow anyone to sneak in. One intruder can blow off the country. Such is the responsibility on our shoulders.”
    But criticism of the BSF after the recent blasts in India has hurt soldiers like Rahman. “Can anybody stay alert with such facilities and toil?” he asks.

    Apparently, lack of recognition, the step-motherly attitude of the government and lack of promotion have contributed to disillusionment among BSF jawans. Around 9,000 BSF jawans opted for voluntary retirement last year. There are around 2.4 lakh jawans in the force. An inquiry has revealed that stress owing to lack of sleep, family problems resulting from long absence from home, lack of recognition and not getting benefits at a par with the Army are behind the disillusionment. Says a BSF officer: “Our jawans are always on duty, while the Army last fought a semi-war a decade ago and a full-scale war three decades ago. But we are treated as cows and the Army jawans as horses.”

    The trend has worried BSF Director General Raman Srivastava. “I have decided to take the matter seriously. The most urgent task was to allow jawans more sleep. How can they perform their duties without sleep? I have issued orders to all battalions to allow BSF jawans at least six hours sleep every day. I have also asked all commandants not to refuse leave to jawans,” he told THE WEEK. He said “there is a sharp fall in voluntary retirement this year.”

    The difference in the pay for jawans of the Army and the BSF is stark. While both have the same assignments in Kashmir, an Army jawan gets 06,000-7,000 more than his BSF counterpart. The BSF mans the 4,000km Bangla border and and the 2,000km Pakistan border. In Kashmir, the BSF gets risk allowance of 0300. But BSF jawans serving in other, but equally tough, places do not get risk allowance. “The government is giving 0300 monthly risk allowance. It has never recognised the BSF’s contribution,” says a BSF officer.

    The Army is entitled to benefits during war and peace because it is treated as an elite force. Why is the BSF not treated similarly despite being a specialised paramilitary force? Officials say it is because it is attached to the home ministry, whereas the Army has to deal with the defence ministry. “Paramilitary forces are in a disarray and cannot demand its pound of flesh from the home ministry,” says a senior BSF official.
    Even the gallantry of BSF jawans goes unappreciated. As was the case with D. Prabhudas from Gujarat, now posted in Meghalaya. “I wanted to study but my father asked me to work in the field. I did not want that. Then I saw the film Border, which inspired me to join the BSF,” he says.

    Soon he felt let down. In 1998, he picked up an unarmed man in Srinagar. Following a complaint, the man was set free and Prabhudas faced a court of inquiry. The case was handed over to the police and he was called back from his duties. Later it turned out that the man was a Lashkar militant. The court of inquiry was withdrawn. But as it lasted a few years, Prabhudas missed out on increment.
    The reward for catching militants is paltry. Havildar Y.P.S. Saini from Punjab got just 0500 for killing five Pakistani militants in Kupwara in the nineties. For killing two militants in another incident, he got 0200. “Honour and awards were difficult to come by in the BSF. We rarely got awards, only token money,” he says. “Enough is enough. Now I want to go home.”

    The BSF is at risk of losing even talented sportspersons. A national champion in shooting, Ramzan Khan joined the BSF five years ago. In charge of the control office of the BSF’s 98 battalion in the northeast, he feels he would soon be sent to the border. “But I want only to play and bring glory for the BSF by participating in games,” he says.
    However, new recruits like Bikash Singh from Bareily in UP have chosen to stay on in the BSF. He left his girlfriend of 10 years to stay in the force, which he joined two years ago. But will his commitment last?



    INTERVIEW/RAMAN SRIVASTAVA, DIRECTOR GENERAL, BSF

    BSF deserves more benefits


    Why do so many BSF jawans want to retire early?

    This is the biggest challenge the BSF is facing. There are many reasons behind it. The most visible ones are lack of rest and detachment from family for so long. About 9,000 jawans took voluntary retirement last year (2009-10).


    What are you doing to prevent it?

    I have issued instructions to battalions not to refuse leave to jawans and asked officers to allow jawans sleep for at least six hours every day. Earlier they were not getting sleep for even two hours. I have asked the jawans to go for regular medical supervision.The interests of jawans will be looked into on priority basis.

    Many BSF jawans feel they do not get recognition, benefits and promotion on a par with the Army.
    The government should answer this issue. You cannot compare the BSF and the Army. They are meant for different purposes. At times the role is exchangeable and during war there is virtually no difference between the two forces.

    Then why the disparity? Why haven’t you taken up the matter with the government?
    That’s an issue for the government to address. There have been many proposals we have sent to the government regarding benefits the BSF should get. None of our demands has been rejected. Our demands include pay package and canteen facilities on a par with the Army, and better promotion facilities. We hope the government would consider the demands. The BSF deserves more benefits than they usually get.




    http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/NEWS/newsrf.php?newsid=14540
     
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  3. SHASH2K2

    SHASH2K2 New Member

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    Its really sad to hear these stories . Its army who gets maximum perks while BSF which keeps the actual vigil on border gets peanuts. There must be proper housing and accommodation provided to all BSF soilders .
     
  4. nitesh

    nitesh Mob Control Manager Stars and Ambassadors

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    and over and above see the nonsense getting paddled, guess who will be beneficiary if these devices don't reach to those who need:

    http://www.hindu.com/2011/03/21/stories/2011032161920500.htm
    ‘Stop purchase of BEL night vision devices for rifles'


    BANGALORE: The Communist Party of India (CPI) has urged the Union Home Ministry to stop purchase of night vision telescopic devices produced by Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL), which will be attached to light machine guns (LMGs) and INSAS 5.56 mm rifles used by the paramilitary forces.

    The Ministry plans to purchase 32,766 units at a cost of Rs. 3 lakh each, which will cost about Rs. 1,000 crore, deputy general secretary of the CPI Karnataka State Council and former MP Suvaravaram Sudhakar Reddy told presspersons here on Saturday. Though the life of each unit was supposed to be 10 years, he said, 400 units of the 1,000 supplied earlier developed defects within two-and-a-half years.
     
  5. ace009

    ace009 Freakin' Fighter fan Elite Member

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    Is this really true? 40% of the night vision devices are defective within 2.5 yrs? Or is it just that the Commies did not get a share of the kickbacks?
     
  6. nitesh

    nitesh Mob Control Manager Stars and Ambassadors

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    It is electro optical device mate, it can get defective because of improper handling too.
     

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