Just salt and turmeric? Put some cumin at least


If you are thinking that spices of the headline might take you inside your kitchen to cook something new and delicious then let me tell you that you have guessed it all wrong. I haven’t yet started taking cookery classes but in case you want me to then, I may do it for you as well as for the Indian Army.

Wo kya hai na, suna hai ek jawan ko camp ka khana pasand nahi aa raha. So, being an ardent patriot I am ready to share my learnings on how to give ‘tadka to a dal’.

Coming back to the jawan in our army – one of our Border Security Force soldier, Tej Bahadur Yadav, recently got much publicity as his videos published on the Facebook went viral. The power of social media turned this regular constable into a hero who, according to many, has exposed the corrupt officials of the Indian Army.

Reward for 11-hour job: Tasteless and bland food sans spices?

He got a lot of mileage as we Indians may not be very sensitive towards women but we are dearly sensitive towards our country and the army. Wherever there is a mention of the word ‘Army’, we tend to take a stand without even knowing the full truth for half-baked stories are more delicious to us.

So, Tej Bahadur Yadav who serving as a constable 29th battalion posted a series of videos alleging that soldiers were being served low-standard food. He even alleged that they even go “empty stomach” at times. According to Yadav, BSF officials are corrupt and sell ration and other items meant for consumption in the camp.

In the four videos which were released on Facebook, he said, “We only get a ‘parantha’ and tea as breakfast and this is without any pickle or vegetables… we slog for 11 hours and at times we have to stand throughout the duty hours. For lunch, we get ‘dal’ (pulses) which only has ‘haldi’ (turmeric) and salt… with roti. This is the quality of the food we get… how can a jawan do his duty?”

I have been savouring Salt n Pepper dish since ages. Mere the thought of it brings water to my mouth. So, while I was relishing the flavoured and spicy dish in my imagination, here came the video of Yadav in which he goes inside the camp kitchen and shows the food which, according to him, is tasteless and bland sans spices.

Yadav’s videos and allegations highlighted two things:

1. Soldiers and security personnel stationed at the border are not served healthy and tasty food
2. Senior officers in BSF are corrupt and siphon off food supplies provided by the government

It was the mixture of deep-rooted emotions for the army and that creepy-crawly feeling of exposing the corrupt officials which made the celebs, public, sportspersons, politicians and the opposition tweet and talk in support of the jawan.

It also prompted the government to swing into action and seek a detailed analysis into the incident.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter, “I have seen a video regarding BSF jawan’s plight. I have asked the HS to immediately seek a report from the BSF & take appropriate action.”

And how can the opposition not participate in this burning issue? “A BSF soldier’s heart rendering tale reflects the apathy & indifference of Modi Govt to our jawans. HM’s words of action too little too late,” tweeted In-charge, Communications, All India Congress Committee Randeep S Surjewala.

The jawan’s claims caused an outburst in the social media as everybody came to his support. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels became extra active with new hashtags like #SaveOurSoldiers and #Food4Soldiers.

The matter was not only controversial but sensitive as well. Mere a thought about starving soldiers gives cramps to everyone’s’ stomach. Many sports persons also raised a voice in support of Yadav.

“Proper food for our Jawans is a must. Bas Baat Khatam.#SaveOurSoldiers,” former India batsman Mohammad Kaif said.

“Really disturbed by the video of our soldiers being deprived of food. Pray that their needs are taken care of . #SaveOurSoldiers,” boxer Vijender tweeted.

Now, while Tej Bahadur Yadav was receiving support and affection from different strata of the society, senior army officials started digging his past and labeled him as an alcoholic, who had a “difficult past” and who also needed regular counseling.

So much so, DIG BSF, M D S Mann had to say, “He (Yadav) has had four bad entries in 20 years of service and hence did not get promoted. This can be a cause of frustration”.

This war of words between the BSF and one of its personnel, who by the way now was a famous man, couldn’t bring much relief to the army as by this time media had initiated its own investigation, people wanted the truth to prevail and the jawan’s wife who said she will never send her son to the army, was asking for the justice.

This entire episode looked like a plate full of spiced-up food items, cooked by different chefs using a lot of veggies and masalas, which in reality were missing in our soldiers’ diet.

Was this accusation made by Yadav a result of frustration for not getting promoted or the BSF officials were indeed selling food items like pulses and vegetables to civilians outside the camp, is yet to be seen.

While this was so, I am eagerly waiting for my Salt n Pepper which I ordered before starting this column.

Yashica Madan Jalhotra has been recently hired as a Taste Checker and has been posted at Ladakh. Send her some spices at yashica.jalhotra@tehelka.com.