Updated: January 17, 2017 8:46:17 am
Roti and dal for lunch, paranthas for breakfast, and chocolates at high altitude. Rahul Tripathi looks at the menu for Central Armed Police Forces and explains how food reaches their tables
AN army, it is said, marches on its stomach, which is why, when BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav complained — through a series of videos — about the “poor quality” of food being served in the mess, it touched a raw nerve, prompting the BSF to order an inquiry into the charges. A look at what’s on the dinner table for jawans in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), earlier called the paramilitary forces of which the BSF is a part.
The food for the CAPF (BSF, ITBF, SSB, CRPF and CISF) is a standard fare of paranthas for breakfast; rotis, vegetable, dal and rice for lunch and dinner, with an occasional kheer thrown in for dinner. The entitlements depend on whether you are a trooper or an officer and where you are posted — below 9,000 feet, above 9,000 feet and above 12,000 feet.
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While troopers get more rice/atta and dal than officers, the latter get more meat, eggs (below 9,000 feet) and butter. At higher altitudes (above 12,000 feet), paramilitary soldiers are entitled to the same ration as the Army and, in addition to the regular ration, get dry fruits (almonds and cashewnuts), chocolates, instant noodles and fruit juice.
Jawans, however, complain that the mess food makes no concession for diversity in palettes. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a soldier says, “Even if meat is cooked, it may not be to the liking of someone from South India or the Northeast. I have seen a trooper from the Northeast washing the cooked meat with water and then eating it with salt and pepper, probably because he found it too spicy.”
Mahendra Kumar, in charge of one ITBP mess, however, says it is “not always right to blame the entire machinery”. “Because of the large size of the contingent, with soldiers coming from different regions of India, it is difficult to serve a variety of food. Therefore, we stick to the standard menu. Non-veg is cooked thrice a week.”
Paramilitary jawans get a Ration Money Allowance (RMA) of Rs 2,905 per jawan per month or a daily allowance of Rs 95.52, which entitles them to an intake of 3,850 calories per head per day. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, which holds administrative control over paramilitary forces, this monthly allowance was last revised in 2014 — it was Rs 106 in 1980, Rs 450 in 1995 and Rs 892 in 2000.
Troopers posted in tough terrain such as Siachen and Kargil get a special ration allowance of Rs 191.04 per day in addition to the monthly amount, say ministry officials.
Every month, jawans pool in their ration allowance, which is handed over to the battalion headquarters. The money is then distributed to the units depending on the size of the contingent.
The food chain
Each unit has a mess commander, with the rank of head constable, who runs the Other Ranks (OR) mess, which is largely for the jawans. There are two kinds of ration that come into the mess: fresh ration (milk, curd, poultry products and other perishable items) and dry ration (wheat, rice, lentils, sugar etc).
For dry ration, Ration Officers or mess commanders of individual units have a demand list, which they place before a Board of Officers at the battalion level every month. The Board, which includes cooks, in turn, approves the demand list and forwards it to local purchase committees (LPC), who then study the best rate and the best quality that can be procured. The ration is drawn from the Food Corporation of India (FCI) or from the nearest market. In case, it needs to be bought from the open market, the LPC submits a sample and rate, along with a recommendation, to the commanding officer of the battalion, who may either approve the purchase or seek more clarification or improvement in quality/rates. Once approved, a separate team will verify whether the product approved is the same as the one supplied. Discrepancies, if any, are reported to senior authorities.
For fresh ration, the mess commander uses cash to buy food bought from a nearby market and later submits bills to his seniors. It is here, sources say, that there are chances of money getting diverted. After Tej Bahadur’s videos went viral, the BSF said it plans to introduce cashless transaction at these mess. Other paramilitary forces — ITBP, SSB, CRPF and CISF — may soon follow suit.
Besides, jawans say, there are no dieticians or nutritionists to guide them about eating right. The standard template is set and each jawan is required to follow the same depending upon his appetite and physical strength. There is just one chief medical officer (CMO) per battalion of 1,000 jawans.
When posted with Army
Though the BSF usually guards the International Border and the Army the 740-km-long Line of Control, in some places, like in Khet, where Tej Bahadur was posted and where he shots the videos, the BSF is deployed at the LoC too to ensure better coordination and understanding between the two forces. In such posts, the BSF is under the operational control of the Army and get the same ration as the Army.
The MHA order reads, “CAPFs are entitled to draw Ration Money Allowance (RMA) on a daily requirement of 3,850 calories as applicable to Army personnel when they are deployed alongside the Army or ahead of international border of LoC or under the operational command of Army.” However, when they are co-deployed, the mess for Army and paramilitary forces are run separately though the ration comes from the Army Supply Depot and the ministry or CAPF foots the bill.
In winters or where the terrain is inhospitable, the Army provides tinned ration to CAPF personnel, which the jawans complain, is often dry and inedible. “Once we open the can, we find the meat is dry, onion is dry… Nothing tastes good in that weather,” says Ram Shankar, a BSF constable who was posted along the LoC in 2013.
The ration breakdown
Ration Money Allowance (RMA) Rs 2,905 per jawan per month or daily allowance of Rs 95.52; special daily allowance of Rs 191.04 for those posted in high altitudes
Calorie count (per head per day)
Army 3,906 in plains; 4,664 in high altitudes
Avg for civilians 2,300
Avg for US civilians 3,770
Avg for US soldier 4,000-5,000
7.2 lakh PARAMILITARY FORCES
On the menu
Breakfast: 2 paranthas, 1 egg, pickle, vegetable, fruits
Lunch: Rice, 4 rotis, 25 gm dal, 80 gm palak paneer/100 gm chicken curry, dahi and salad
Dinner: 4 rotis, rice, daal, vegetable, kheer and salad
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