Sleep-deprived, abused jawans guard India's borders

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BSF troopers
New Delhi, Jan 9: With increasing incidents of stress-related fratricide on the rise among paramilitary forces, a recent government study has confirmed the worst fears for those who want to make a career in the armed forces. The study has found that more than 70% of BSF personnel were sleep-deprived and facing abusive and harsh behaviour from their seniors.

The study has also divulged important information on the fitness levels of BSF troopers, who are involved in guarding crucial Indian borders near Pakistan and Bangladesh. In a first of its kind study, titled 'Emotional Intelligence and Occupational Stress' of BSF jawans and officers; the reasons behind the high stress among the troopers especially among the risky locations have come to light.

The report submitted to the Home Ministry states, "The study shows that the overall levels of stress are quite high in the force. This study itself is just a beginning, touching the tip of the iceberg. It did not have the required time and very accurate tools to measure the stress levels in the force. Still it is indicative of the problem being faced (by the BSF)."

It added, "More than 70% report not getting adequate rest and sleep and the number is larger for the Other Ranks (jawans and constables). Many mentioned getting as little as four hours sleep on a regular basis. Such physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation leads to chronic stress and affects performance badly."

The 136-page study also highlights the negativity the jawans have to bear including bad behaviour, abusive language and the syndrome that causes a fear even at the thought of committing a single error.

The study was carried amongst a total of 161 jawans and officers out of the 1.7 lakh personnel from both western and eastern frontiers and was based on the hypothesis that "people with higher emotional intelligence will have lower occupational stress". The study also suggested measures to check cases of fratricide and suicide cases in the forces.

The study was done under the tutelage of senior IPS officer and Inspector General in the BPRD, Manoj Chhabra. The body that looks into the various issues plaguing the armed forces is carried out by the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) that falls under the Home Ministry.

Home secretary RK Singh found that the existing number of psychiatric cases are not a real reflection of the ground relaities. The report had said, "These cases only reflect the persons who have broken down, but there are a large number of persons who are suffering badly and may be leading towards a breakdown immediately. There is an urgent requirement of providing trained counselors and psychologist/psychiatrists who can handle the issue in a professional manner,"

The report added, "Many Other Ranks have responded that the seniors are often unduly harsh, abusive and sometimes even sadistic. While they do not expect all their grievances to be addressed by the superiors, they are often hurt by the approach of the seniors who treat their grievances as complaining, whining and attempts to avoid work."

The report also stated, "Many mentioned that the seniors are always ready to suspect them and there is no trust. They will believe outsiders and rumours rather than the jawans. Constant suspicion and fear does not augur well for the organisation. A more calibrated 'Trust but Verify' approach is required to get the best out of the force,"

It added, "There are many issues mixed here, it is not just the amount of leave but the fact that it is not granted when required. It is obviously not possible to satisfy all, but the dissatisfaction levels are very high. Further, there is a widely held perception that the system is not implemented fairly, favouritism is rife and some get it as and when they want it and others don't, even when the need is urgent."

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