Soldiers in the Indian Army and the country’s paramilitary forces have told The Sunday Guardian that jawans posted on the field or in the forward operating bases have been facing the issue of sub-standard food for a long time, thus validating the points raised by BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav.
Soldiers in the Army, BSF and the CRPF, posted in different locations across the country, told this reporter that they found Yadav’s observations in a few video messages regarding the quality of food given to them “mostly true”, but refused to attribute the lapse to corruption.
A 24-year-old soldier, working with one of the branches of the Army operating in Jammu and Kashmir, said that during his four-year tenure he has found the quality of food to be mostly sub-standard. “The quality of food is not something that a civilian like you will be able to eat more than once. Sometimes the quality becomes good, but mostly it is something that we eat, so that we do not have to stay in an empty stomach. The quality of food becomes worse at high altitudes and remote areas as the resources there are limited. Other factors like keeping an eye on enemy movements hamper the preparation of food. In such situations, one cannot blame the senior officers. However, what has been said by the BSF jawan in the video is mostly true. This has been the case for many years,” the solider said.
The soldier disapproved of the BSF’s act of defending itself by describing Yadav as a “habitual offender” and an “alcoholic”. “If he is a habitual offender, why was he allowed to continue in service? Why was he sent to forward posts? As far as being an alcoholic is concerned, a majority of our soldiers and officers consume alcohol regularly just like Yadav,” he stated.
As per a report in 2006, 39.5% of the Army personnel posted in Jammu and Kashmir had become alcoholic.
A 28-year-old soldier with the BSF said that the quality of food was a big reason for the stress that a soldier faces and despite repeated communications, the quality of food in the mess was sub-standard. “No one among us expects that home-like food will be prepared in the mess. However, we feel that the quality should be looked into by our seniors. Officers should randomly sit with us once a week and eat with us. The condition of those who are based on the forward areas is very bad because of the location. I do not know whether any corruption is done by anyone or not, but what I know is that the quality of food can be improved,” said the soldier, who is posted in J&K.
According to a CRPF jawan posted in Chhattisgarh, the quality of food even in some of the more accessible camps is not good. “It’s no secret (the quality of food). You can yourself come and check. However, we have become accustomed to it now. This has been the situation ever since I joined six years ago. It’s only now that it has come to the attention of the media because of the videos shared by Yadav. What he has done might be wrong legally, but he has shown the truth,” he added.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office have sought a report from the BSF over the concerns shared by Yadav on social media.