New Delhi: Faced with questions over the quality of food, the Border Security Force or BSF has commissioned an assessment by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to analyse the quality and quantity of meals being served to jawans and officers of the paramilitary force.
The Border Security Force also suggested measures to improve possible shortcomings.
The move comes over a year after a BSF jawan had posted a video on a social media site claiming "watery soup-like dal" and "burnt chappatis" were being served to personnel.
BSF Director General (DG) KK Sharma told news agency PTI in an interview that the first-of-its-kind step was taken on the recommendation of a parliamentary panel that took up the issue recently.
"We are getting a study done from a DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) laboratory to analyse the quality of the food being served in BSF messes. These experts are also talking to the personnel who prepare the food, run the unit mess and also those who consume it."
"While a final report is awaited, what we have been made to understand is that both the quality and quantity of our food for jawans and officers has been found to be more than satisfactory as part of the study," the paramilitary chief said.
The DRDO's Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) based in Mysore in Karnataka is conducting the assessment.
The Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) is a special laboratory to conduct research and development related to dietary and nutritional requirements of security personnel.
A parliamentary panel, in its report, had noted that there was an "adverse report on social media" about the quality of food being served to BSF personnel.
"The committee (members) are of the view that providing good quality food to CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces) personnel is not only necessary to keep them healthy and fit but also for boosting their morale.
"The committee, therefore, recommended that a mechanism be put in place for testing food items being supplied to CAPFs at the source of supply itself, whereby it is tested and certified in respect of nutritional values, hygiene and labelled as fit for consumption," the report had stated.
Mr Sharma said that an internal inquiry conducted by the BSF after its jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav posted a video on social media claiming bad food was being served, had found that the quality and quantity of food being served was never an issue among the forces' personnel.
Mr Yadav had in January last year posted a video on Facebook that showed a meal box comprising a "watery soup-like dal", which he claimed had only turmeric and salt, and a "burnt chapatti".
The officers did not know that a constable is facing problems and complaining about something, which may or may not be wrong, he said.
"They got to know when the jawan uploaded something (on social media). So, it is the failure of the supervisory officers in having a proper connect with the subordinates. One must know what is happening."
"This was identified as a weakness of the officers and failure of command and they were shifted. This action was not undertaken because the food was bad," Mr Sharma said.
He said the area along the Line of Control where Mr Yadav was posted is under the operational command of the Army and the food is supplied by them at these locations.
"It is largely tinned food at these high-altitude and difficult locations. The entire ration process has been decentralised by us at the International Border (IB) where we have our independent command," he said.
The DG added that Mr Yadav, last year in April, was sacked and charge-sheeted for indiscipline and uploading a video in violation of rules.
Such conduct "cannot be tolerated" in a security force and this action was not taken against him for complaining about the quality of food, he said.
Mr Sharma reiterated that the BSF, as an organisation, has taken a policy decision that the use of smart phones and social media will not be disallowed despite this incident.
"I feel why should I punish 2.5 lakh people just because the mistake of one man. If they want to enhance their knowledge and keep in touch with their family by using the Internet, then why should I stop them?" the DG said.
"We have just told our personnel that social media and Internet has to be used sensibly and anything that they receive on social media should not be believed without verifying its authenticity," Mr Sharma said.
The BSF is tasked to guard the two important and sensitive Indian borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh and it also renders a variety of internal security duties across the country including undertaking anti-Naxal operations in Chhattisgarh and Odisha.