IN A dimly lit kitchen, a BSF man sits with a half-burnt paratha in his hand and a glass of tea. A voiceover, in Hindi, claims this is all that the troops get for breakfast. In another shot, the camera shows a pressure cooker half-filled with dal, which is described as “more of turmeric and salt”. Then, the man behind that voice appears in BSF fatigues, with snow in the background, to claim that jawans are forced to serve in the force “because of corruption by senior officials”.
These are clips from a series of four videos posted Sunday afternoon on Facebook by a man, who was later identified by the BSF as Constable Tej Bahadur Yadav, from the force’s 29th battalion based in Jammu and Kashmir.
More than 24 hours later, the videos have gone viral with a total of over 7 million views and rising by Monday night, prompting the force to rush a senior officer to the location, a transit post en route to the Line of Control (LoC).
The border force also issued a statement, saying that “the BSF is highly sensitive to the welfare of troops”. “Individual aberrations, if any, are enquired into. A senior officer has already reached the location,” it said.
Home Ministry officials said that Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asked the Union Home Secretary to immediately seek a report from the BSF and take appropriate action.
A BSF officer, however, told The Indian Express that Yadav had faced disciplinary proceedings previously on various charges, including “alcohol abuse”.
The tough working conditions and stress faced by paramilitary forces have been under the spotlight before, and the videos posted by Yadav focus mainly on meals served to soldiers.
In one video, Yadav turns the camera to the half-burnt paratha and a glass of chai. “Main abhi subah ka aapko naashta dikhata hu…yeh jale huye parathe sirf aur chai ka glass…na achar, na jam, na butter. Yeh hai 29 Bn BSF ke jawaano ka naashta (I will show you our breakfast this morning. This burnt paratha only and a glass of tea… no pickle, no jam, no butter. This is the breakfast of soldiers of BSF’s 29 Battalion).”
In another video, Yadav records a conversation with kitchen staff to convey the lack of basic ingredients needed to cook dal. “Sirf haldi hai dal mein, aur kuch nahi? Na pyaaz, na lehsun…jeera bhi nahin hai? (There is only turmeric in the dal, nothing else? No onions, no garlic… are there no cumin seeds, either?),” Yadav is heard saying.
In one of the four videos, which got over 4.4 million views, Yadav appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action, alleging that the allotted ration doesn’t reach soldiers.
In the video posted at 5.37 pm on January 8, he says, “We don’t want to blame any government because all governments provide us with everything but some senior officials sell them off. The situation is such that we have to sometimes sleep on empty stomachs.”
In the video, Yadav also alleges, “The Indian government provides everything. The stores are full. But all that goes to the market. Where it goes and who sells them should be investigated. I appeal to the honourable Prime Minister to get this investigated.”
On January 4, too, Yadav had taken to Facebook to post a photo of soldiers sleeping on the ground, with a caption: “The state of BSF soldiers in the cold. The Army of Jai Hind.”
Yadav ends every video with a “Jai Hind” and this question: “Can a jawan work ten hours after eating this food?”
Signing off, Yadav says he does not know what will happen to him after the video reaches his superiors and that people must share them as much as possible.
Speaking to The Indian Express on condition of anonymity, BSF officers said the transit post where Yadav is based is under the operational control of the Army, which also provides the ration. They said that such posts “do not have great facilities as they are temporary makeshift structures and located in remote corners”.
One officer said that Yadav had applied for voluntary retirement on January 31, 2016, and was posted on sentry duty at the camp 10 days ago. “Yadav had been pulled up for insubordination in the past and undergone at least four major punishments. These include charges of alcohol abuse, use of insubordinate language, habitual absenteeism and acting in a manner prejudicial to an official order. For the last offence, he was sentenced to seven days of rigorous imprisonment by a BSF court,” said the officer.
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