As if surviving on paltry salaries wasn’t enough, personnel below officer rank (PBOR) are being forced to buy their own uniforms.
A parliamentary panel on defence tabled in Parliament this week has found that the army issues PBORs “poor quality” ill-fitting uniforms that make them “look untidy”. Which is why they buy uniforms from the open market. There are over 10.5 lakh PBORs in the army.
The Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA), headed by a lieutenant general, is supposed to ensure that troops get the best of weapons, ammunition and clothing. But the PBORs feel cheated. “We are at the bottom of the hierarchy so no one cares. We spend over Rs 1,000 a year on uniforms,” said a sepoy. The sepoys’ pay scales ranges from Rs 3,050 to Rs 4,950.
The hierarchy-obsessed army often engages jawans in demeaning household chores. A panel set up by the defence ministry to examine causes of suicide and fratricide found last year that abusive language and perceived humiliation by superiors were among the biggest precipitating factors. The Defence Institute of Psychological Research had advised the officer cadre to open clogged communication channels with troops.
Apart from uniforms meant for daily use, several deficiencies have been found in special kits for troops serving in Siachen. Soldiers deployed there face hardships because of the army’s failure to provide them special clothing and equipment needed to endure nature’s fury at altitudes of 21,000 feet and above.