Defending the heartland of our country is the Border Security Force… the jawaans stationed at the western, northern and eastern frontier borders of our country. They are the first line of defense against any invasion, terrorism, illegal or country threatening activity that happens at the borders. Incorporated on the 1st of December in the wake of the 1965 war as the primary guarding force of the Indo-Pak border, the BSF has grown exponentially to 186 battalions with a strength of over 2.5 lakh personnel.
I have been fortunate enough to travel and share great moments with these valiant soldiers be it in Kashmir, the Ladakh border, Wagah border and recently in Jaisalmer. It is amazing to see the precision and dedication with which they work. Each battalion has its separate issues and vagaries of nature to deal with. Yet they have one unanimous feeling of strength and love for the nation.
What not many are aware of is that the BSF and Army are actually two separate entities. The Army officers still manage to interact with the citizens and people of the country where their lifestyles can be intermingled. The BSF soldiers however have stricter regimes and are practically cut off from regular interaction with the very citizens whose lives they are protecting. How do they then feel motivated to continue and focus on their jobs, I wondered? There are no pats on the back, no public honoring from time to time, no commendations.
A three year tenure at one post and then sent elsewhere to a different geographically area, with varied conflicts, complications for living amenities, food, and climatic disparities. Life is never easy. From the swamps bordering Myanmar, to the sub-zero temperatures of Kargil to the dry sweltering Thar desert and the arid Rann of Kutch. None is easier than the other and they have be to constantly prepared. Challenges they have to face come as bouts of malaria become a constant companion, or the dread of crumbling fingertips in the freezing temperatures or withstanding the scorching temperatures of the desert. It requires more steely determination than an ordinary man can even imagine and this is what they live by day after day in what we call peaceful times.
The more I became aware of this, it became my endeavor to take my program “Back2Basics” which prioritizes health and holistic healing of body and mind to places where I feel the reach and access to such information may not be easy. I interact with the soldiers at the BOP as well as their families separately, understand their issues and queries and try and help them out. The jawaans need their immunity at peak levels to perpetually combat the disconcerting nature of circumstances that they must face. Sometimes food is their only source of happiness and contentment considering their high stress environment and yet it has to be balanced to suit their nature of work. The Government does take care of their provisions but sometimes tweaking becomes necessary for individual conditions as the mental well-being is a constant put to test.
The families meanwhile have their own individual issues of single parenting, loneliness of having a long-distance partner and even routine questions that women generally have. Very often the mental worry takes toll on the physical health and whilst they are aware that their husbands are serving a higher duty, life does throw them different obstacles to deal with. Sometimes what is needed then is a kind word, someone to hold your hand, someone who listens and says we understand. Dr. Anjali Chahbaria, the well-known psychatrist accompanied me to Jaisalmer and helped in guiding them on personal issues too.
When I met the DIG Amit Lodha who heads the BSF at Jaisalmer, I had a thousand questions to ask. And more so when I saw women in the Jaisalmer BOP. Solitary existence on the posts, staying in barracks, night vigil and lots more….though I feel that women can achieve anything that they set out to do, this is one place where I felt the odds were really difficult. I was surprised as there were many of them, some even had young kids that they had left behind. All for the call of duty. The more I learnt about them, the more my heart swelled with pride and respect. I salute them.
DIG Amit Lodha was all praise for his team. “They are soldiers with responsibility and passion towards their job.” he said. “We make sure that we have a personal rapport with each and every one of them, grant them leave to meet their families, but their motivation comes from within.” Furthering my talks with him, he said that he has been trying to push for grant and welfare schemes for these soldiers and the martyrs’ families such as the ‘Bharat Ke Veer’ so that there is more public awareness and can also contribute. “What is lacking is the general perception. The people believe that army and the BSF soldiers are the same.” He continued, “There are several opportunities that the people get to interact with the army men. While everyone does their bit for the army, there seems to be no cognizance towards the work that the BSF do and the BSF is usually the side-lined . My men here do a brilliant job, they are at work even when there is no war.. it’s a 24/7, 365 days job.” I agreed. A little recognition is a lot of motivation.
I do hope that my time spent with them will stand them in good stead. Awareness creates empathy and I take forward what I heard from IG Nalin Prabhat, DIG Amit Lodha, Gen.Vijay Paul and all the others that I met. I salute the heroes of our country who do their duties and beyond for the sheer love for the country. Today, December 1st being BSF Day, let us begin by honoring and recognizing the contribution of the BSF to the security of our country. As one of the women constables said, “Akhri goli, akhri dam tak ladenge. Jai Hind!”