Sunday, 15 January 2017

Shooting the Messenger? Indian Defense forces face some bold challenges

Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh (Indian Army),trooper Tej Bahadur Yadav (Border Security Force), Constable Jeet Singh(Central Reserve Police Force) have all done the unthinkable. They have taken to social media to bring out their concerns about the facilities in their respective organizations.

A summary of their grievances is as follows 

Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh (Indian Army) :

He had written to Prime Minister's Office,the Defense Minister, the President of India and Supreme Court of India regarding soldiers being made to conduct duties unbecoming of a soldier, such as walking the seniors dogs, taking care of (officer's) children, washing their clothes and polishing their boots.Subsequently posted video after 1 year complaining of harassment and torture by his seniors and supporting statement of Tej Bahadur Yadav.

Trooper Tej Bahadur Yadav (Border Security Force):

Posted video regarding quality and quantity of food and pilferage of food by senior officers.

Constable Jeet Singh(Central Reserve Police Force):

Requested parity in facilities being provided to Indian Army and CRPF.

Why is this unthinkable? 

Because one of the first things you are trained in the defense forces is this :

Never Complain. Even if your senior specifically asks you about any complains, or doubts, simply shout out "no Sir" at the top of your voice.

Such is the wonderful, courageous philosophy of staying strong despite all odds, that one feels this is an important part of the ethos of the organization(s) which has the responsibility to protect more that 100 billion people, being ready to even lay their lives on the line.

While the philosophy is truly noble, in theory, it's one weakness, like so many other philosophies is the abuse of it. 

This is why, the political establishment, while seeking to recuse themselves from the public outrage on seeing such videos, totally got it wrong , when they claimed that they had regularly visited border posts and personally asked soldiers if they had any problems. No soldier will (dare to) complain. Both the Armed services and the politicians know this for a fact.

But why did the three men take such an extreme step?

1.Although this is subject to investigation, a possible reason which comes to mind is that there is another philosophy in the Army which directly contradicts the dictat of keeping quiet :

To be fearless in all situations and to be ready to lay down their lives for the good of the country.

In all the three videos, the men display a look of extraordinary courage in their eyes. They know that they are not posing for selfies, but with full responsibility and  knowledge that their careers, their reputation and even their lives are at stake. 

These men could foresee the possible bleak future ahead of them and yet they fearlessly chose to post these videos, for the good of the country's defense.

2.The senior leaders of the current Government, including Hon'ble Prime Minister of India, have been pro active in visiting the border posts and focusing on the welfare of Armed Forces. This probably gave the soldiers the impression that if they reached out the the Prime Minister, things might improve. 

But now that the cat is out of the bag, what next?

Well, despite popular support for them, this is the reaction of the officials:

Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh (Indian Army) : 

 - The Indian Army issued a statement saying the grievances of the soldier are being addressed through established mechanisms.

-Army chief Bipin Rawat said that action will be taken against soldiers using social media to air grievances instead of going through the regular channels. 
- As per media sources, he may face court martial.

Trooper Tej Bahadur Yadav (Border Security Force) :

  "The investigation ordered by the Union home ministry concluded that his allegations were unsubstantiated. The BSF has already said Mr Yadav had a "dodgy record" that also features "intoxication and insubordination"."- NDTV

Constable Jeet Singh(Central Reserve Police Force):

""He has not complained about any organisation, only voiced his aspiration," a CPRF press note said" - Business Standard

The above reactions were fairly standard and what was to be expected. In case of the Army, it is said to have a policy, although I could find the document on the internet. "In case of the social media, the army already has a policy. While jawans and officers are allowed to post their views on social media, they are not allowed to criticize the government or reveal anything about the nature of their work or working conditions." - NDTV

The above actions particularly in the case of Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh (Indian Army) and Trooper Tej Bahadur Yadav (Border Security Force), while perfectly in line with protocol and procedure, run the the risk of stifling some genuine aspects of their grievances. 

Suggestions :

I agree, that the actions of the Jawans have the potential to be extremely damaging to the reputation and morale of the Armed Forces. No action against them will send out a wrong message encouraging some to even misuse the Social Media. 

 While action is completely necessary against the concerned Jawans as per procedure for any violations, it would be a lost opportunity if we simply brand the complainants as one off cases and anomalies, without honestly looking in the nature of their complaints.

1.Many have been complaining of systemic failure to curb and control malpractices within the Army.Under the garb of "Nationalism", violations are ignored.

 A simple visit to any of the army cantonment area residences of officers, will reveal exactly what Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh stated. Some battle trained soldiers are working as servants in officer's quarters. While it is understandable that senior ranking officials need support staff, isn't it possible to establish a separate dedicated service for this? Is it really required to recycle soldiers to double up as domestic help ? Maybe, a part of the advertisement budget running vociferously on all TV channels presenting a glorious, exciting, tech savvy career in the Armed Forces could be utilized for this. Alternatively, the new recruits could be informed in the first instance, prior to joining, that their duties may involve being domestic helps for senior officers.

2.Trooper Tej Bahadur Yadav's  (Border Security Force) statement isn't completely baseless as well. Many have complained about a well establish flow of material and supplies of the army, being illegally sold off into the private sector by officials. This needs to be looked into and addressed appropriately.

3. Besides complaint boxes, appropriate confidential redressal mechanisms, including online confidential submission of forms, involvement of third party judicial mechanisms could be introduced.

4. Action should also be seen to be taken on complaints and grievances. If a Jawan complains against a senior, it's futile to ask the senior to look into the complaint. We all know the result of such an inquiry.


The Indian Armed Forces are one of the finest, important, respected and most sensitive organizations. 

Keeping in mind the latest changes in technology and social trends, existing mechanisms need to be suitably upgraded to ensure reform so that it's facilities and morale is maintained at the highest levels. 

The authorities are really walking a tightrope on this one and must be very careful to ensure what kind of message is being sent out:

Message 1: If you complain, you will be prosecuted...OR

Message 2: If you want to ruin career of your boss/Commanding officer, post a video on Social Media...OR

Message 3: Whatever you do, our systems are perfect and we will get to the truth and justice will be delivered.

After all, three Jawans appear to have staked their everything for this.

Update : In further action, BSF has transferred the Commanding office and his Deputy to ensure a fair investigation.

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