At a time when paramilitary forces are facing a shortage of gazetted officers, almost 60 per cent of officers selected for posting in the Border Security Force (BSF) have refused to join this year. This comes in the backdrop of growing tension on the border with Pakistan and the controversy in the BSF following a video uploaded by one of its jawans.
Twenty eight candidates who qualified in the 2015 UPSC examination — held for posts vacant in paramilitary forces — were selected for the post of assistant commandant in the BSF in 2017. However, 16 of them refused to join despite the risk of being barred from appearing for paramilitary post exams ever again.
The figures fit the pattern of BSF’s poor intake over the last couple of years. In 2016 (UPSC exams of 2014), 17 of the 31 selected officers joined training. The same year, those who appeared for the 2013 UPSC exams also joined the force. But only 69 of the 110 selected officers joined and of these, 15 resigned during training.
BSF currently has a vacancy of 522 gazetted officers (Assistant Commandant and above) against a sanctioned strength of 5,309, according to the Home Ministry.
While almost all the candidates were civil services aspirants, a majority had given their first preference as CISF. Many of the candidates who refused to join this year told The Sunday Express that second-class treatment meted out to paramilitary forces as compared to the armed forces and reports of stagnation of career, particularly in the BSF, were among factors that influenced their decision.
Vivek Minz, one of the selected officers who didn’t join, said: “I didn’t get what I wanted. My first option was CISF but my rank was poor so got BSF. Had I qualified for CISF, I would have joined. I was prepared for it.” Minz is also appearing for the civil services exams and becoming an IAS officer is his “primary goal”. He said he appeared for the paramilitary exams as a fallback option.
“CISF would have given me metro or city posting and I would have continued to prepare for the civil services exams. This is the only force which has not veered away from its core mandate. All other forces, be it BSF, CRPF and ITBP, would have been problematic,” said Minz, who is from Jharkhand.
For most of the candidates, a post in the paramilitary forces meant the “safety” of a government job even as they kept trying to become IAS or IPS officers.
One candidate, who didn’t want to be identified, said: “In all these forces, all the top posts are held by IPS officers. As a BSF officer, I can never rise to the top. I have even heard that there is a serious stagnation of career in the BSF. Many officers don’t even reach the level of commandant by the time they retire and even the pay is not upgraded in a time-bound manner.”
Rajasthan resident Puneet Mehta, however, was just not prepared for a “tough job” that the BSF would have meant. “I did not join because I did not get CISF, my first choice. While BSF is a good force, I am not mentally prepared for a job on the border with no modern civic amenities. I am still hoping to get through civil services.”
For another officer, hailing from Punjab, however, lack of parity with the Army was an issue. “There is no problem with the job. After all, it’s a government job which you rarely get. But there is no parity with the Army. It also does not earn you as much respect in society as the Army. The job is so tough but there is no recognition. They are confused for Army people. They don’t even get martyr status when they die. Even when you are getting married, people prefer an Army groom to a BSF groom,” he said.
Most of these candidates had seen the videos the now-dismissed BSF constable, Tej Bahadur Yadav, had posted, in which he spoke about the allegedly poor-quality food served in the force camps.
As far as Tej Bahadur Yadav’s videos are concerned, I feel there should be a mechanism to vent out frustration and air their grievances. It should not be aired through social media. There should be a system in place to sort out issues,” said Minz.
For Jalandhar resident Prabhadeep Singh, however, the BSF was his only choice; yet, he didn’t join. “My first preference was BSF as I was not aware of the other forces. I am from Jalandhar and the BSF has an establishment there. My college was near the BSF camp and I saw it as a good job option. But I am preparing for the civil services and I wanted some more time before joining the BSF, but they didn’t grant me the extension. I thought if I join now, I would have to train for a year and then it would be difficult to pursue civil services.”
Deepak Borse from Maharashtra too said his aspirations of a career in the civil services had come in the way of his joining the BSF. “I am currently working at SBI. I am preparing for the civil services and appeared for the paramilitary exams as a fall-back option. I have no problems with BSF, but I want to attempt the civil services once more.”
When asked about people not joining the force, the BSF spokesperson refused to comment. A senior BSF officer, however, said, “BSF, CRPF and ITBP have some of the toughest postings. Among them, the BSF and CRPF are in war zones. That is why they are not the first preference for most candidates. Many also see the forces as just another government job, since they do not command the same respect as the Army. But for us, if a candidate is not mentally prepared for the BSF job, it’s better that he does not join us.”