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A wake-up call : Disenchantment in armed forces (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

A flurry of videos has emerged in the social media in recent days showing jawans of both the paramilitary forces and the Army complaining against a host of issues from diet to colonial-era practices. While these are disciplinary breaches, they are a good reason to initiate a detailed study into the internal health of our security establishment. 

Videos depicting grievances of armed personnel
1.The present lot of videos began when BSF constable Tej Bahadur Yadav posted a series of them complaining about burnt parathas and watery lentil curry served along the Line of Control.
 
2. From the Army, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh of 42 Infantry Brigade expressed his grievances against the sahayak (helper) system. He alleged that professional soldiers were being forced to wash clothes, polish boots and walk dogs for senior officers, and that he was being victimised with court martial proceedings for complaining against the practice. 

3. Nursing Assistant Naik Ram Bhagat of the Army complained in another video about their rations, that they were only getting about 40 per cent of the menu items allotted. He also complained about the buddy system in the Army, in which soldiers are deputed to be with officers and end up doing their personal chores.

4.  Yet another video of an Army jawan showed him singing about the difficulties they face and discrimination by officers. He spoke about leave being denied for 10 months, poor food and other issues.
Responce of Army, paramilitary forces and Government

The videos quickly grabbed national attention. From the Prime Minister’s Office to the Army chief, the senior leadership has been quick to respond. Both the PMO and Home Minister Rajnath Singh sought an immediate report from the paramilitary forces, while Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat ordered the provision of grievance and redress boxes. However, many of the responses, especially from the middle- and senior-rung leadership of the Army and the paramilitary forces, spelt almost outright denial. 

Way forward
Without doubt the videos are serious disciplinary breaches, and they must be viewed keeping in mind the possibilities of such rampant access and use of social media ending up assisting the enemy. The resort to social media to air grievances could compromise national security, especially when the forces are in sensitive locations. But that should not take the attention away from the larger malaise reflected in them, and it is in tackling them that the senior leadership, both in the executive and the security establishment, must spend time now. The videos are a wake-up call.



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