Dharmendra Pareek (now 47) joined the Border Security Force (BSF) in the year 1987 as an assistant commandant drawing around Rs 2400 a month. During the 1971 Indo-Pak war he was eight years old. The ‘blackouts’ (power cuts in all facilities including households as precaution against enemy air attacks) that affected the lives of the civilians at that time had a deep-rooted effect on his mind. And he developed a passion for the ‘uniform’ as he wanted to be in the thick of all action and not suffer silently as the civilians did. “In the process, I selected the BSF when I had the opportunity to choose a career. More so because the BSF has a bit of both the Army and the police cultures,” says Pareek, now a commandant of the elite force, drawing a salary of Rs 65,000 a month.
“The BSF is a paramilitary force of the union and is primarily responsible for the security of international borders of India with Pakistan and Bangladesh,” says Pareek. Till 1965 the battalions of State Armed Police manned India’s borders with Pakistan. Pakistan’s attack of the Sardar Post, Chhar Bet and Beria Bet, in Kutch on April 9, 1965, exposed the inadequacy of the State Armed Police to cope with military aggression. The need for a special force to guard the borders was felt and the BSF came into existence on December 1, 1965.
The tasks of BSF are many. During peacetime they promote a sense of security among the people living in the border areas; prevent trans-border crimes, unauthorised entry into or exit from the territory of India; prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. During wars they hold the ground in less threatened sectors; protect vital installations and perform anti-infiltration duties in specified areas. “In the last few years the BSF has, in addition to its regular duties, been deployed for counter-insurgency and internal security duties,” says K Srinivasan, deputy inspector general, BSF. At present 10 BSF battalions are deployed in anti-Naxal operations, he says.
“Unlike the Army, the BSF has no separate peacetime and field posting concept. The posting is always from field to field,” says the DIG, an MA in Sanskrit who joined the force for the love of the uniform and acquired degrees in law, disaster management, industrial relations and personnel management while serving as an officer.
“A BSF officer, therefore, will be on active duty till retirement and therein lies the challenge,” he adds.
And the challenges are many. “The emerging terrorism profile, which has become border-less, is a major challenge,” he says. Add to this the challenges of terrain or the climate — officers have to at times work in extreme conditions. Trans-border crimes can also be a serious challenge and one has to take all the measures to prevent these. “Then there is the counter-insurgency angle as in Jammu and Kashmir, the north east or in the Naxal-infested areas,” he adds. A BSF officer is well equipped to tackle all these.
“Besides exposure to ground-level realities we are giving them training, which includes teaching them tactics to deal with terrorist activities,” says the DIG. And training — “viable, sustainable and ethos-oriented” — forms the building block of the career of a BSF officer.
What’s it about?
The Border Security Force is a border patrol agency of the government of India. Part of the paramilitary forces of India, the BSF was established on December 1, 1965. Its primary role is to guard the international borders of India during the time of peace. As is the case with most paramilitary forces of India, the BSF is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs. With a strength of around 240,000 personnel in 159 battalions, including women’s battalions, it is one of the largest border patrol forces of the world. Since the time of its establishment the BSF has earned many accolades including the glory of serving with real distinction in the 1971 war with Pakistan. The BSF has the infantry, and air and water wings
. Entry level: Rs 30,000 a month
. Middle level: Rs 50,000 a month
. Senior level: Rs 65,000 a month
. At the top: Rs 80,000 a month
6.30 am: Attend the physical training session
7.30 am: Take reports coming in from field locations
8.00 am: Breakfast
9 am: Reach office
10 am: Check the key points of the border on a vehicle/camel, depending on the location of the outpost
2 pm: Lunch
4 pm: Weapon maintenance work
As dusk breaks: Issue instructions for night duty. Oversee deploy- ment of troops at night
11.30 pm: Surprise visits at key check posts/installations
12.30 pm: Call it a day, if lucky
. Functional intelligence
. Good adaptability
. Good physical fitness and good communication skills
. Good team player
. Ability to endure tough working conditions while serving in remote, inhospitable terrain
How do I get there?
The first posting as an officer is that of an assistant commandant (AC). To become eligible for selection you need to be a graduate in any discipline. Possession of NCC ‘B’ or ‘C’ certificate or outstanding achievements in sports or athletics will be an added qualification.
Eligible candidates will have to go through the UPSC selection process. You have to qualify in the written test, preliminary medical examination, physical efficiency test, group discussion, interview and the final medical examination. On selection you will have to undergo one year of basic training before you become an AC
Institutes & urls
There are no official institutes that train you to become a BSF officer. However one may take help of one of the many private institutions that coach students for competitive examinations related to recruitment
Pros & cons
Opportunity to serve the nation. You become the eyes and ears of the nation
The thrill and challenge related to the job is unmatched
Social life gets disturbed because of the frequent transfers
Remote location and exposure to extreme climates may stress you out
A retired senior officer talks about life in the BSF
What are the challenges facing a BSF officer today?
The challenges are of two types. One pertains to the border management, which is by itself a very complex subject. Complexity comes up because of the internal as well as external factors. Take for example the Bangladesh border. There are regional forces that try to create problems for the BSF. In border management the basic job is to provide a sense of security to the people living in border areas. The men also have to stop border crimes like smuggling. Now when you take steps against these things, especially smuggling and other trans-border crimes like cattle lifting, forcible grazing, you directly confront the local populace. Your profession per se, comes in direct conflict with the local population. And at the same time you need to provide the local people with security. That is the biggest dilemma BSF personnel have to face, when they are on border duty.
Secondly, there comes a time when you are taken out of the border management duty and are put in other duties like counter-insurgency, anti-militancy. That is a big challenge. And there you cannot take a ham handed approach. You are fighting your own citizens. You cannot kill them at random. That would lead to a public outcry like it happens once in a while. Aberrations do take place and public opinion, in spite of all the good work being done by the BSF, turns against it. You need to take a balanced approach.
What are the growth prospects in the BSF?
Honestly speaking, I say BSF as a force will not give you any great growth prospects. This is particularly true for the cadre officers and not the IPS officers who join the force at posts above those of DIGs. The prospects, however, keep changing. I will give you my own example. I joined the force in 1969.
During those days the recruitment rules used to say that I would become a deputy commandant in six years. Then I would become a commandant. And after 12 years I would be eligible to become a DIG. But the recruitment rules always remained on paper. I picked up my first promotion after 12 years. Think of that!
However, there have been some improvements over the years and the post of an additional director general now has been given to the cadre. And an officer joining the force today can hope to end his career as an additional DG. The special DGs and the DG are invariably IPS officers.
How are the BSF officers geared to tackle the threat of terrorism and infiltration from across the border?
We are fully trained for that. Both border management and prevention of infiltration are key aspects of the training of BSF officers. Infiltration from across the normal international border is entirely different from that from across the Line of Control, like infiltration from the POK side. However, the basic techniques for curbing infiltration, whatever the location of it, are the same.
SK Dutta, retired inspector general, BSF Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh