The videos of BSF Jawan complaining about food and living condition for them gathered a lot of support from people and fellow army men. In the video that Tej Bahadur Yadav posted on Facebook, he talked at length about corrupt practices in the force’s administration and even showed pictures of low quality food. He talked about how seniors in charge of food are selling the supplies provided by government to soldiers in the open market and making Jawans eat inappropriate food.
Government sent a dietician to LOC to investigate the condition but at the same time Chief Rawat has come up with a statement that Jawans shouldn’t complain on social media about anything. There is a complaint box that should be used instead and that griping on social media will be considered punishable offense. Is it really criminal for army men to post their woes on social media?
1. Code of conduct: Griping on social media about condition of food at LOC is against moral code of conduct for soldiers according to new Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat. He has warned that their acts are violation of rules and soldiers doing that could be punished. When there are a set of rules, they are meant to be followed.
2. Proper platform: There are proper forums to resolve issues of army men. If there was a complaint regarding quality of food, the soldier should have taken the issue to that particular forum instead of complaining on social media where it is difficult to understand what is true or if the same is a framed issue due to other reasons.
3. Demoralizing effect: Showing pictures of not so favorable conditions at LOC is seriously demoralizing for the soldiers who are doing a commendable job at border security, fighting the harshness of weather and supplies. Youth who are determined to join Indian Army someday are also going to be demoralized with such videos.
4. Venting: Reports have alleged that Tej Yadav was an alcoholic and had violated rules several times. His inappropriate behavior was the reason that he was not getting promoted to a higher position and that was making him desperate and depressed. He only posted the video out of desperation and seeking vengeance for delaying promotion. The truth is social media can be misused for venting anger. It is only fair that army men could have a grievance and complaint department where they could directly convey their problems to the Army Chief instead of creating confusion and controversy on social media platforms.
1. Shutting mouths: Even before an investigation could be conducted, the jawan who posted the video was immediately discredited of mental sickness, alcoholic addiction and so on. He was allegedly also jailed previously for showing disregard to seniors. Why was he still given the gun and ammunitions if he was unsound at mind? This clearly smells of conspiracy to stop him from speaking the truth.
2. Series of complaints: This is not the first instance where a jawan complained about food and living conditions in extreme regions. Even after his video, other army men came forth to post complaints that were earlier ignored. There came one from a BSJ jawan about increased hours of duty. Another CRPF constable talked about partial treatment between army and paramilitary. Another Army Jawan alleged harassment from a superior for writing out his woes to PMO.
3. The right way to be heard: The jawans wouldn’t have resorted to FB at the first instance of an ill treatment or witnessing corrupt practices from superiors. They spoke on social media only when their pleas were not reaching anywhere through any other means. Social media is a good platform to speak out against injustice and this is about the people who are protecting our nation at the stake of their own lives. If they cannot get justice in such situations, there is no way common people are going to hold up to the trust in judiciary.
4. Freedom of expression: Whatever happens to freedom of expression when someone speaks against a senior officer of the system altogether? We cry for this particular right every now and then when a journalist offends royalty and the same should apply to army men when are trying to reach out to the government to examine and investigate the harshness they are struggling with.
Social media posts on food and living conditions at borders can lower the morale of those fighting at front. There should be a separate grievance committee to hear and answer to the pleas of army jawans.