NEW DELHI: The stressful job of manning sensitive Indian borders in difficult terrain round-the-clock is forcing BSF personnel to lead a "nomadic" life with a state of continuous sleep deprivation, says a report on the state-of -affairs of the country's largest border guarding force.
The exhaustive report compiled after interactions with the on-field jawans and officers of this over 2-lakh personnel strong force also highlights a unique problem faced by the paramilitary called 'Zero Error Syndrome' where minor mistakes lead to severe punishment for the BSF men and women who guard two of the most sensitive and important borders of the country with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
It adds that long postings at the border and other places of deployment in the internal security grid of the country is making these personnel, called 'bordermen', face "social boycott".
"The BSF personnel lead a nomadic life. Every night they leave the comforts of the border outpost and go to zero-line with bedding roll and after 6 hours of active duty, in ambush/naka or patrolling, try to sleep for few hours (as per duty roster) at some temporary machans/improvised shelters in the company of mosquitoes and snakes," says the report, submitted to the Union Home Ministry for remedial action.
"Due to security considerations, the place of duty is changed daily but the threat remains the same. Constraints of manpower and responsibility of large area deprive the BSF personnel of much needed sleep at one stretch on any night of his duty. There is thus continuation deprivation of sleep which cannot be compensated by any means," the report, accessed by PTI, says.
It adds that the BSF personnel work under stringent discipline where committing mistake is very risky.
"The personnel are governed by stringent BSF Act and Rules. Even minor mistakes have been defined as offences and stringent punishments delivered to defaulters. The force thus maintains the highest standards of discipline.
"Due to sensitive borders, the accountability factor is very high. As a result, all persons work under a culture of zero-error. This attitude in the force has not only robbed BSF of initiative takers but is also causing avoidable stress and strain," the report states.
The force, which is celebrating its 50th year of raising in 2015, is also facing challenges when it comes to personal and social life of its troopers.
"Since the families cannot be kept at the border, the BSF personnel have to live away from their families throughout their service. The only time they stay with their families is 75 days leave (60 days earned leave and 15 days casual leave) in a year. This kind of separation not only causes emotional strain on the families but troops also face social boycotts," the report states.
It goes on to spell out some of the damning facts that the troops of this vital security force, modelled on the lines of the Army and raised in 1965, face day in and out.
"Despite massive efforts that the BSF is trying to provide basic amenities and infrastructure at border outpost level, the standards have not reached the expected level. Out of the total 2,143 locations in BSF, land at 582 locations has not been acquired and satisfaction level in family accommodation is minuscule and abysmally low at 12 per cent.
"Thereby, BSF is facing acute shortage on account of basic amenities," it says.
These men in combat, with a variety of duties to render like counter-insurgency and anti-Naxal operations, also tend to develop psychiatric and other health-related problems due to their harsh and hard deployments from the scorching heat of the Thar desert in Rajasthan to the snowy winds on the high altitude of Peer Panjal mountains in Jammu and Kashmir where they guard the International Border and Line of Control (under Operational command of the Army).
"The BSF personnel are constantly exposed to the vagaries of nature, wrath of wild animals, poisonous reptiles, lightening, snow and sand storms. Besides, illness specific to work places like cerebral malaria in northeast and threat of death in the line of duty are serious occupational hazards which a BSF personnel has to face throughout his service.
"Personnel remain under constant stress and strain due to sustained deployment on the operational duties. This has resulted into several men developing psychiatric and other related problems," it says.
The adverse effects of strenuous service conditions, the report says, get reflected in the form of "increasing cases of hypertension and young personnel having cardiac arrests.
"Family problems due to service conditions at times aggravate the condition. Such conditions at times even collaterally damage the families of the personnel affected since remain unattended."
The border guarding duty is a task which the force and the men under its command render on a '24x7x365' duty pattern basis.
"BSF personnel are constantly present on the borders, be it on the operations duty or at the border posts. Place of duty and the place of rest of a borderman are in the eye-ball contact with the counterpart. The men at the posts are completely cut off from the outside society," the report says.