Poll duty hampers BSF's training programs: DG

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New Delhi, Nov 29 (UNI) Mr A K Mitra, Director General of Border Security Force today admitted that deployment of the BSF for such civilian causes as election duty has led to deterioration in its standards of fitness and expertise.

''Therefore, we have proposed to the Government to raise at least 49 more batallions over a period of 7 to 8 years to enable us to include such roles,'' he said.

''We cannot remove forces from the borders and deploy them for election duty. Mainly those batallions that are marked to undergo training programmes, are sent for elections work in various states.

Our training has suffered because of constant deployment for purposes other than border management,'' he told newspersons at a press conference ahead of the BSF's 42nd Raising Day, which is to be celebrated on December 1.

He confirmed that after BSF's successful stints during Punjab, UP and Manipur elections, it has been asked to post 168 companies for upcoming Gujarat polls too.

Mr Mitra also admitted that there was high level of attrition among the cadres, especially in the medical division.

''There is almost 50 per cent attrition among the BSF doctors.

People leave the force as they get plumper remunerations in the private sector. Also, the operating conditions are quite harsh in the border areas, and so they prefer to move out,'' he said.

The BSF chief also admitted that there are several vacancies in the Force that need to be filled up. Overall, there is a shortfall of 756 officials. The bulk of the vacancies are in the medical cadres. ''While there is authorisation for 415 doctors, there are 258 available. We have decided to take doctors locally available, on contract,'' he said.

In the non-gazetted category, there are 6155 vacancies, against a total sanctioned strength of 2,10,261.

Also, the better pecuniary benefits that the Army men get while being posted at the same destinations as the BSF, can also be demoralising for the latter. ''Our perks are less than the Army, even though we are deployed at the same place, face the risks, and encounter the same obstacles. It is a matter of great concern and we have put up our demands before the next Pay Commission.'' In addition, the BSF has asked the Pay Commission for reinstatement of the Lance Naik and Naik posts, as the jawan takes 17 years to become a head constable. ''A number of promotions can pep up his spirits,'' he said.

About other concerns, he said there have been 24 suicide cases this year in the cadres and there have been 121 deaths due to AIDS in the past few years. There are about 345 HIV positive people now, and 236 under Anti-Retroviral Treatment, he added.

He said 52 cetres have been set up for HIV detection and voluntary counselling facilities are available. ''Even I went for a HIV test, just to encaurage my staffers!'' he said.

UNI

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