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House panel wants new study to review BSF food

Taking note of a January 2017 video uploaded on social media by a BSF jawan complaining about the poor quality of food served to them, a parliamentary committee has questioned the random sampling methodology of a third-party study ordered after the video went viral. The study had found 97% of BSF personnel surveyed satisfied with the quality and quantity of food.

The panel has now recommended commissioning a fresh study that would adopt selective sampling focused on remote areas with harsh climatic conditions where the quality of food is more likely to be compromised.

The jawan in question, Tej Bahadur Yadav, was dismissed after a BSF staff court of inquiry found him guilty on charges of indiscipline, including uploading the video “in violation of laid-down rules and procedures”.

The third-party study conducted by Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS), which comes under DRDO, in its report presented in early 2018 had found the intake of energy and nutrients by the sample data, covering 6,526 BSF personnel, commensurate with ICMR’s recommended dietary allowance of 2010.

However, the parliamentary standing committee on home affairs, in its 214th report on ‘working conditions of border guarding forces’ tabled in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, said the sample size of the study was less than 3% of BSF’s strength and thus subject to error. “It may not accurately reflect the situation on the ground,” it said.

The panel punched holes in the stratified random sampling technique adopted, and said that while quality and quantity of food served in accessible locations may not be an issue, “problems exist in remote, inaccessible areas of deployment where there are harsh climatic conditions”.

The committee said the study should have adopted selective sampling or modal instance sampling focused on areas more likely to have compromised quality and quantity of food. “Conducting such a focused study would have brought out real concerns, which were probably lost among the favourable outcomes obtained from a wider sample,” it said.

The panel recommended that the home ministry commission another study based on selective or modal instance sampling technique that would focus on BSF posts located in remote, inaccessible areas and which suffer from constraints of harsh climatic conditions.

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