Suicides graver than enemies for armed forces

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Security personnel in India
Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday admitted that suicides among security personnel belonging to various wings of the armed forces is a serious issue. While replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said armed forces lost 597 personnel to suicide in the last five years while 1,349 officers quit the Army during the same period.

From 2009 to 2013, 597 armed forces personnel committed suicide--498 from the Army, 83 from the Air Force and 16 from the Navy, Jaitley said in written reply.

The startling figures has once again brought light on one of the grave issue our security forces are facing today. Cases of voluntary retirement, suicides and fratricide among jawans in the armed and paramilitary forces are on the rise.

The highest number of suicides took place in the Army in 2010 when 116 troops committed suicide but the number came down to 86 in 2013.

Forces losing more soldiers due to suicides than in action

While the figure for suicides stood at 142 in 2007, it climbed to 150 in 2008. It dipped to 111 in 2009, before climbing up again to 130 in 2010. It was 102 in 2011.

In 2003, 96 Army men committed suicide
In 2004, 100 took their lives
In 2005, the number was 92
In 2006, 131 personnel committed suicide

Sting of incidents

In Februay 2014, a soldier shot dead five of his colleagues in their sleep and then killed himself. Ramber Singh, who was posted on sentry duty at the camp of 13 Rashtriya Rifles at Safapora in J&K, entered one of the barracks at around 2am and started firing indiscriminately at his sleeping colleagues. Singh later killed himself.

In March 2014, an army jawan committed suicide by shooting himself with his service rifle inside a camp in Ganderbal district of Kashmir.

On October 24, 2006, a soldier kills two colleagues, self after an argument in Rajouri, Jammu.

On March6, 2006, four soldiers shot down by a colleague in Miran Sahib, Jammu.
A young gallantry decorated Captain S Kohli turned his AK 47 assault rifle on himself while he was posted with a Rashtriya Rifle unit which was actively engaged in counter-insurgency operations in frontier district of Kupwara.

What are the reasons

Several researches reveal that stress, overwork and poor working conditions are some of the major factors responsible for suicides among the security personnel.

Moreover, denial of sanction leaves to them also responsible for increasing suicides.

Also, depression and tension after counter insurgency operations in J&K and North-East forced some them to take such extreme steps. Erosion in quality of leadership is not a contributing factor.

Army seems to be losing more men to suicide and fratricide than to enemy bullets

Other reasons for the high suicide rate are 'domestic, family and financial problems.' Security experts say that the jawans posted far away from their native places, come under tremendous stress for their inability to contact their families back home.

In certain such cases, the person committing suicide not only shoot himself but also killed his colleagues and senior officers also. Thirty six incidents of fratricide have been reported in the paramilitary forces. Twenty five similar cases have been reported from the armed forces between 2007 and 2011.

To address the situation, there is a need to strengthen formal and informal interaction between soldiers and officers. Leave policy, especially for soldiers posted in difficult areas, should be liberalised so that a soldier can go home to sort out his domestic problems.

Meanwhile, Jaitley said the Government has taken various measures to create appropriate environment for the defence personnel so that they can perform their duties without any mental stress.

"Some of these include improvement in living and working conditions through provision of better infrastructure and facilities, liberalised leave policy, establishing a grievance redressal mechanism and conduct of yoga as per unit routine," Jaitley said.

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