REMEMBER Tej Bahadur, a soldier from Indian Border Security Force, who became talk of the town when a video clip posted by him became viral on social media, somewhere in the beginning of 2017? In that video clip, Tej Bahadur and his fellow soldiers had complained that the soldiers in Indian Army are leading a life worse than the animals. They had said that the harsh conditions and poor facilities they are subjected to while performing their duties are very painful rather insulting. Several claimed that they had to do household chores for their superiors, including washing clothes, cooking, taking care of their children and even taking their dogs outside. All these soldiers also complained about bad behaviour of their senior officers. The video posted by Tej Bahadur gave courage to several soldiers in the Indian army and paramilitary forces who came out to voice their concerns on social media. After the video went viral on social media and was covered by the print and electronic media, he was shifted to a different unit in BSF.
According to the NDTV, later on a court martial inquiry was held against him and he was found guilty of making false charges and of indiscipline for posting video on Facebook alleging that troops on the frontline in Jammu and Kashmir are being nearly starved with bad food and poor portions. This court-martial led to his dismissal from the service. The dismissal in such circumstances meant that he would not be entitled to a pension after more than 20 years of serving in the BSF. Talking to the media-men Tej Bahadur said after his dismissal, “I made my complaints public only once I saw there was no other way. I had already sent several petitions to senior officers and even to the Prime Minister’s Office. But no one heard me.” Now India’s Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Sarath Chand has recently endorsed what the unlucky Tej Bahadur had said last year before his dismissal.
According to the Indian Express the Army has said it was reeling under severe fund crunch and struggling to even make emergency procurements when there was a real possibility of a two-front war and both China and Pakistan were carrying out modernization of their defence forces in full swing. The Army’s frustrations over inadequate allocations of funds in the defence budget figured in a report of the Standing Committee on Defence which was tabled in Lok Sabha on March 14; says the paper. Lt Gen Sarath Chand said, “The Budget of 2018-19 has dashed our hopes and most of what has been achieved has actually received a little set back.” He was of the opinion that inadequate allocation of funds would hit the Army’s modernization plan when Chinese military was competing to reach the level of the US. “The threat perception has been ever increasing. The last one-year has seen various occurrences of external strife and internal dissidence. Just to highlight a few, we have the Doklam issue going on and China has become increasingly assertive,” said Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand.
This blunt criticism on the Modi government may lead to dismissal of Lt Gen. Sarath Chand’s services from the Army but his sincerity and honesty would always remain an example. A commander must be loyal to the people under his command and Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand is no doubt doing it but what to do with the Indian Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat who seems total blind to the soldiers under his command. He knows very well that the Modi government is not willing to facilitate the Army and provide ease and comfort to the soldiers but even then he keeps on instigating rather threatening the ‘neighbours’ with his aggression-filled statements.
A few weeks back he said talking to the audience at an event organized by the Vivekanda International Foundation, “Let me assure you, it is not just the Indian Army which is alone facing the brunt. People sitting across the LoC are suffering far more damage than what we are suffering.” Here one thing is very interesting that for the first time an Indian Army Chief has publically admitted that the innocent civilians on the Pakistan side are facing severe damages at the hands of the Indian Army as he has used the word ‘ people’ in his statement. If he had meant the Pakistan Army, he would never have used the word ‘people.’ More interesting is the fact that the General is making all these claims of damaging the civilian population on the basis of an army whose soldiers are posting pathetic videos on social media regarding food shortage and lack of other basic human requirements they are facing.
—The writer is freelance columnist based in Multan.