India’s first line of defence is putting away their weapons and going home for good.
Nearly 41,000 Border Security Force personnel — one in five in the 2.09-lakh force — have chucked their jobs over the last 30 months, saying they want to spend time with their families and look for better jobs.
Over 7,000 men deployed along the Indo-Pakistan and Indo-Bangladesh borders put in their papers in the first half of this year; nearly 16,200 quit last year and more than 17,000 the year before. Most of them were from the constabulary and had spent the prime of their lives at the border — unrewarded, unrecognised and let down by the force and government.
“The job involves a lot of stress, separation from the family for long durations and difficult duties,” said Inspector General (Personnel) P.C. Sabarwal.
“The constabulary has a pitiable life, any day worse than an army soldier, who is at least posted at a family station after a hard posting. Never so for a BSF jawan,” added a BSF officer.
Ajay Raj Sharma, former BSF director general, said one problem was that the immediate requirements of personnel were not being met. “It is the first line of defence of the country and should be treated as such, not like an armed police force,” he added.
An annual attrition rate of 8 per cent, an official said, was alarming but understandable in a force that has a suicide rate that is three times higher than the army.
Last year, 41 BSF personnel committed suicide against 100 army personnel; the BSF’s suicide rate was 20.5 per lakh against 6.6 per lakh in the army.
But BSF personnel are not the only ones giving up their jobs. Figures of troops leaving the paramilitary forces presented in Parliament last week indicated that others like the Central Reserve Police Force have a similar, if not as serious, problem on their hands.
Over 2,000 people quit the CRPF, a 2.48 lakh-strong force; nearly half as many resign from the Central Industrial Security Force annually and 1,500 from the Assam Rifles, the force deployed to fight insurgents in the Northeast.