They Matter Too: Why BSF Men Get Fewer Allowances Than Army JawansTheQuintOpinion
In the early hours of 1 May 2017, a Pakistani “Border Action Team” ambushed an Indian patrol team, well within the Indian side of the Line of Control in the Krishna Ghati sector in Jammu and Kashmir. In the third such incident after the surgical strikes of September 2016, they killed two Indian soldiers, mutilated their bodies and are said to have taken away their heads.
The Pakistani army has resorted to this type of barbaric and unprofessional conduct in the past, and no amount of condemnation is likely to deter them from doing so in the future too. As India mourns the dead, there are furious cries for revenge, demanding 50 heads of Pakistani soldiers for each of the fallen Indian soldier.
Difference Between the Two Martyrs
Politicians mouthing the usual homilies have utilised the photo opportunity to the fullest by laying wreaths on the bodies and expressed solidarity with the bereaved families. The outrage will die down after a while till such time when another such gruesome incident occurs or the government decides to stun people with news of another “surgical strike”.
There is, however, a major difference in this incident unlike past confrontations. We can at least not accuse the enemy of discriminating among Indian soldiers on the basis of the uniform colour they wear. Among those who were martyred, Head Constable Prem Sagar of the BSF’s 200th Battalion wore khaki, whereas Naib Subedar Paramjeet Singh of the 22 Sikh Batallion wore OG (olive green).
One needs to pause a while to grasp the implications of the fact that both the bravehearts were beheaded by the same enemy while operating together in service to the nation. They were deployed together at the same post and carried out exactly the same duties. They received orders from the same commander and would have been subjected to the same law.
But all the similarities end there. A BSF jawan performing exactly the same duties as an Indian army soldier while deployed together at the same post, gets as much as 40 percent less pay and allowances than his army counterpart.
Following chart highlights the pay gap that exists between a BSF soldier and an army personnel at the rank of Havaldar.
Let’s take a look at some other categories of expenses:
1) Transport Allowance (Rs1,800) & Remote Hardship Allowance (Rs 6,930) are the same for both.
2) A BSF jawan, although deployed on the same post, is entitled to lesser calories equivalent of ration money, which too is taxable, whereas an army soldier is in receipt of free ration which is also tax-free.
(3) BSF personnel are also left behind when it comes to pension due to the implementation of the National Pension Policy in 2004. So, pension is dependent on the contributions made to the pension fund by an individual. The quantum of pension available is not fixed as the pension fund is linked to the stock market. This is in complete contrast to army personnel enjoying the benefits of OROP.
Disparity in Benefits and Entitlements
There are several other differences that put BSF personnel at a disadvantage. An army soldier is entitled to more leaves as compared to BSF personnel. Army troopers are also entitled to more free leave passes/concessional vouchers than BSF jawans.
The entitlement in terms of family accommodation is also much less at just 14 percent in case of “other ranks” of the BSF. This is coupled with the fact that they are not entitled to House Rent Allowance (HRA) in their hometowns where most of them have to perforce leave their families.
In case a BSF jawan sacrifices his life, the insurance cover provided to him is Rs 20 lakh compared to Rs 37.5 lakh for an army soldier.
The government has decided to extend pension benefits to the families of BSF personnel martyred in action, but they are not entitled to many of the benefits extended to martyred armymen by states because BSF personnel are not accorded the status of a martyr.
Dissatisfaction Hits Morale
It is, therefore, no wonder that the morale of BSF personnel is adversely affected. This is reflected in the high attrition rate in terms of voluntary retirement.
As many as 2,583 persons, i.e. more than 1 percent, opted for voluntary retirement in 2014 alone, with a total of 7,166 personnel or 3 percent leaving the force in three years from 2012 till 2014. This is also reflected in the fact that almost 60 percent of those selected as officers in the BSF have declined to join service.
Equal Work, Equal Pay Principle
One is prepared to concede the primacy of the defence forces in the hierarchy of the security apparatus and also acknowledge that they deserve higher remuneration. But then there has to be a sense of proportion.
The principle of equal pay for equal work should apply and the troops deployed alongside the army under their operational control should at least be entitled to the same pay and allowances as the army personnel.
Several representations to the government and various pay commissions have been in vain, with the concerns of BSF and also that of other central paramilitary forces not being addressed. Politicians concede the injustice when spoken to in private, but when in power, fail to initiate any steps to address the issue.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in several public rallies during election campaigns, has spoken about the need to improve service conditions of the BSF and other central paramilitary forces (CPMFs). But nothing has been done even after three years in power. It is perhaps the fate of these CPMF personnel to silently suffer as the soldiers of a lesser god.
(The writer retired from the BSF as an additional director-general. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)