On a cold December day in 1965, India’s Border Security Force formally came into being. This was prompted by the India-Pakistan war which brought to light the weaknesses in the country’s border security. Until then the local police force used to also manage border security, but they did not possess the skills to handle this critical function. Since its humble beginnings in 1965, the BSF has grown from strength to strength and is today the largest border guarding force in the world. A fact that not many of us know. A fact that we must be truly proud of!
BSF personnel undergo one of the toughest training in the world and on completion of their training they are among the finest fighting soldiers in the world. This helps them not just to man the borders, but also to be able to survive for long periods in the hostile weather conditions around the border.
India shares her borders with Pakistan in the North and West, Bangladesh in the East and China in the North East. In the North, closer to the Himalayas, the BSF soldiers have to manage in sub-zero temperatures almost throughout the year. In fact, the village of Dras, in Jammu and Kashmir is said to be the second coldest inhabited place in the world. Despite this, there is a very strong BSF presence in this region after the Kargil war which took place in 1999. We must also remember that our soldiers do not have permanent accommodation at the border posts. They live in tents or shacks or temporary shelters where no heating system is available. Under these cold, harsh and hostile conditions the soldiers have to keep their morale up and stay vigilant.
Along the borders in the North East our BSF soldiers have to deal with not just cold weather in winter, but also extreme rainfall and rugged terrain. While we do enjoy getting wet in the rain, isn’t it nice to head back home and get into warm, dry clothes? Imagine our soldiers out there standing in the rain all day, for months together, so that we can stay safe and warm in our homes.
BSF soldiers face another kind of extreme weather along Rajasthan border where temperatures soar to 47 to 50 degrees in summer. The blistering heat coupled with sand storms make it unfit for habitation. Yet our soldiers are out there in the heat and dust ensuring that no one intrudes into our borders. And, we already know, they do not have any comforts – like an AC – in their temporary homes. So the next time you complain about the weather or the AC in your home not working, think about the soldiers working in severe climatic conditions for us.
Now, imagine that you are away on a holiday. You visit many places and each night you may stay in a different place. While we enjoy the travel and sights immensely, we are happy to get back home, to sleep in our bed and to be surrounded by familiar and comfortable things.
However, the BSF soldiers do not even have this simple luxury. They have to live a nomadic life. For security reasons their place of duty is changed every day. Which means that they do not have the comfort to going back home to a familiar place at the end of a hard day’s work.
Moreover, due to shortage of soldiers, each jawan is given a large area to patrol. This means, even while on night duty, they must keep up their vigil. Imagine if they were like the night watchmen we employ in our buildings – who fall into blissful slumber a few minutes into their duty! How dangerous that would be for our country!
Due to the nature of their jobs, our BSF soldiers have to follow a very strict discipline and vigil. Even minor mistakes can result in serious punishments for them. This is because a small slip-up on their part can result in serious threat for the country. It is indeed a high pressure job with no room for errors.
So, what really is the role of BSF? Their job is to prevent trans-border crimes. They must prevent smuggling, infiltration and other illegal border activities. They must also be observe and report and unusual activities from across the border. During war time, BSF jawans act as guides to the Army as they are familiar with the local people and terrain. In addition, they help manage refugees, guard prisoners, perform raids…etc. When any kind of natural calamity strikes the country, BSF soldiers help in the rescue operations as well. For instance, during the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, BSF soldiers were the first to reach the affected area and start rescue work.
Is it all work and no play in the life of a BSF solider? Unfortunately, that is true! Each BSF soldier is allowed only 75 days of leave in a year. This is the only time they get for themselves and their families. The rest of the time they are working tirelessly. For us.
Let us take a moment today and every day to think about the jawans who are out there. These men and women of the Border Security Forces are our true heroes. Because unlike the Army, BSF fights an unending war and they never have what we can call a peace time.
I’m grateful to have got this opportunity to speak about these brave, unsung soldiers of our country. To be honest I knew virtually nothing about BSF, until I started preparing for this talk. So thank you once again for this opportunity. I leave you with thoughts about our soldiers. I hope you will join me in wishing them peace, health and happiness. Jai hind.