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Petitioning Retired Generals of Indian Army

Condemn the article written by Lt Gen (Retd) Harwant Singh in Hindustan Times , Chandigarh, 02 June, which shows the CAPFs in poor light .

                                 DOES THE GENERAL KNOW

 

Lt Gen (Retd) Harwant Singh has literally set the cat among the pigeons by depicting the CAPFs in poor light in his Article “ A New Spoke in the One Rank One Pension’s Wheel”, Hindustan Times  02 June. He has alluded to various aspects of management and command of the CAPFs and argued that the CAPFs being inefficient, poorly trained, weakly commanded and operationally unsuccessful have no business to make out a case for OROP which should be granted only to the defence services. He has also cautioned the readers about the unauthorised use of the terminology “Para Military”  by the CAPFs, which, in his view, was causing doubts in the minds of the decision makers about their entitlement to matching benefits as that of the defence services. He goes to the extreme extent of declaring that there is nothing “military” about the CAPFs besides lamenting about the extra financial benefits being enjoyed by the CAPFs vis a vis the defence personnel !

Undeniably, the general who would have overseen the operational output of many BSF Units on the LC  and IB is faking ignorance about the genesis, organisational structure, weaponry and training philosophy of the BSF, which has also been made a victim of his acrimonious criticism. Is the general unaware of the contribution of the BSF in the 1971 liberation war of Bangladesh which, for the BSF, commenced early in the year 1971 well before the army entered the scene?  How can he discount the reality that all the BSF units then deployed on the then East Pakistan and West Pakistan borders were active participants in the Indian army’s campaigns and that many of the BSF personnel were martyred and many were conferred Military Gallantry awards. Would the general dare to argue that there is “nothing military” about 1 MVC and 11 VrCs awarded to the BSF personnel for their acts of Gallantry and that they were awarded without the recommendations of the Brigade Commanders and GOsC under whom they were operationally placed during the war?  What would be the General’s take on the role of the BSF during war as formulated by the Army according to which most of the BSF BOPs would be acting as Early Warning elements to the Army formation and thus are expected to fight and perish well ahead of the main defences of the army ? Perhaps, in the general’s view, that would also be a police role!

Post 1971,the next major limited war that our country had to fight was Op Vijay or the Kargil conflict, the genesis of which was the opportunity utilised by Pakistan to infiltrate and occupy the FDLs vacated by Indian Army. Even if Gen Harwant Singh is unaware, the entire 15 Corps should gratefully remember that the lone BSF Def Area of the sector at Drass (08 Bn BSF then under command of Shri SC Negi ), which though more inhospitable than many of the FDLs vacated by the Army, did not allow even a single case of infiltration. Perhaps, a “non-military” achievement ? Performance of BSF units placed under the op control of the army on the FDLs, CI and IB scenarios have been lauded in no uncertain terms by the respective formation commanders as evidenced from the cases of VSMs and SMs conferred on them and the thumping appraisals given to the BSF officers by the Army formation commanders.

As for the observation regarding infiltration from Bangladesh, the General may please recall that there is no similarity between the norms of Border Management along Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangladesh Borders. The General’s question would be well answered by the reality that no such infiltration occurs from Indo-Pak IB and anyone who attempts meets with his ultimate destiny. The point would be further reinforced by the occurrence of free trans-border movement of IIGs across Indo-Burma border guarded by the Assam Rifles which is commanded by Army officers. The BSF personnel also carry the same basic infantry weapon of 5.56 Insas Rifle. Shooting down unarmed Bangladeshi Nationals is perhaps nothing “military” like!

For the information of those who have been carried away by Gen Harwant’s article, it is clarified that the BSF is neither a police force nor para-military. The constitutional and legal status of the BSF is that of an Armed Force of the Union as it has been raised under the same provisions of Article 246 of the Constitution of India under which the Army, Navy and Air Force have been raised. The terminology CAPF as presently assigned to the BSF is incorrect  due to the aforesaid status of the Force. The BSF neither takes pride nor wants to self-style itself as para-military as there is nothing honourable about that nomenclature which has an assortment of interpretations and meanings, which also includes unofficial resistance movements. Perhaps, the terminology “Paramilitary” has been officially defined only in the training pamphlets and other official papers of the Army in order to stake claim for lateral entry and re-employment of Army personnel in such organisations. Has the general considered for a minute as to why the BSF which is an Armed Force of the Union and has its well-defined Role and Tasks should relegate itself to the lowly status of a paramilitary Force ?

Lt Gen Harwant  Singh goes on to denigrate the training standards and operational achievements by siting examples of operational casualties suffered in Anti Naxal Operations. His statement would have been vindicated had the Army operated against the naxals and achieved any success, which is not the case. Is he unaware that the BSF as well as other AFs are operating without the cover of the AFSPA without which the Army is shy of plunging into CI operations, and that the terrain, demography, the inter-state spread of the operational area and the hawkish eyes of various human rights groups present extremely difficult challenges to the Forces? Despite the heavy odds, the rate of BSF casualty per year has been less than four deaths and 8 injuries in Anti-Naxal Operations while the success rate has been more than 200 apprehensions,30 surrenders , seizure of  140 weapons and more than 300 kgs of explosives per year. Of utmost value was bringing back normalcy to the so called liberated areas wherever deployed, all the while operating under the parameters and limitations laid down by the respective states and without attracting any major allegations of Human Rights violation. The General may perhaps not disagree that the Indian Army will just refuse to operate under such adversities.

BSF’s tryst with CI operations commenced soon after its raising in the year 1965 with the involvement in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. The Role of BSF in containing extremism in Punjab needs no elaboration. So was the case with the populated areas of Srinagar Valley where the BSF fought a vicious battle against well-entrenched militants and foreign mercenaries to liberate those areas. Will the General deny that it was the BSF which almost eliminated militancy in the towns and cities of Srinagar Valley by the mid-nineties when the Force was de-inducted? Has the General forgotten that it was the Army that expressed serious reservations about de-inducting the BSF from Kashmir and substituting it with any other Force when the decision to revert the BSF units to the Border Management role was taken,

Training standards of a Force depends on its trg philosophy and the time and effort invested in training.  Unfortunately, the BSF has a well- defined training philosophy but finds it difficult to spare units and sub-units for regular collective training, not due to the lack of will to train or inadequacy of leadership but due to the call of the Nation. While it is agreed that the Indian Army, which is free to train, invests adequate time on training, and thus remains well prepared to meet external threats, it is the other Armed Forces like the BSF and the CRPF that hold this country together from most of the internal threats when the Army trains. In so doing, they remain perpetually separated from their kith and kin, live under sub-human conditions and operate with limited resources while being exposed to high levels of threat to life, which, in the general’s view is tantamount to “feathering the nest”. The general should have expressed gratitude to the BSF and other AFs for responding with whatever they have to douse the raging fire of militancy in various parts of the country and thus releasing pressure on deployment of the Army in those theatres.

The General appears to be obsessed with the comparative disparity between the IPS officers and the Army officers and has perhaps tried to paint the entire CAPFs with a coloured brush without considering the fact that the IPS officers, who are appointed on deputation, constitute only less than .01% of the Forces. The BSF has a strong, well trained and well-motivated parent cadre whose  career progression is much slower than that of the Army officers. They are trained well, go through periodic professional courses, lead the men from the front and are responsible for all the laurels earned by the Force. The career progression of BSF officers is so slow that Direct Entry officers who have completed more than 18 years of service are continuing as Dy Comdts (Equivalent to Majors) where as their counterparts in the Army are Colonels and those in the IPS are DIsG. As for the constabulary, the residency period for the first promotion is as long as 20 years. Despite such adverse conditions of service, the BSF has not turned away or adopted evasive tactics when the nation burns due to internal or external strife.

The General has wittingly or unwittingly misled the readers by mentioning a host of factual errors in his article such as admissibility of headquarters allowance to the AFs like the BSF, their retirement age, quantum of detachment allowances etc. The working conditions  obtaining in the BSF and how comfortably the “nests have been feathered” can be appreciated from the fact that during the past ten years the number of personnel who sought voluntary retirement from the BSF on completion of 20 years of service was almost 4.5 times that of those who retired on superannuation. Such personnel are left to survive on their pension alone, being deprived of any reservations or privileges admissible to the EX-Servicemen.

The rank and file of the BSF who have operated with the Army in various operational theatres hold the Army in high esteem. They admire the manner In which senior officers take pains to groom their juniors and accept responsibility for their errors. The training philosophy, regimentation, professionalism and the pride in uniform of the Army are respected and to a great extent emulated by the BSF. The BSF Act is a near replica of the Army Act. When the country would be in the grip of a major security crisis, the BSF would be fighting shoulder to shoulder with the Army. Enemy bullets will not differentiate between men in OG and the men in Khaki.  General, why are you then firing your guns on the shoulders of the BSF in order to reinforce your case for OROP, which the BSF also strongly believes is long overdue to the Army? Let us therefore think and act like true comrades in arms against the Nation’s enemies rather than playing down each other.

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