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Army Taking Steps to Counter Suicide-Spate

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, June 17 (UNI) Recognising that something needs to be done about the overall increase in suicide cases in its rank and file, the Army has taken several ''pro-active steps'' like stress-management programmes, counselling and welfare activities to ''rejuvenate'' personnel deployed in forward areas and counter-terrorism operations on a rotational basis.

Latest figures show a staggering 430 officers and other ranks have committed suicide in the highly-disciplined environs of Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force since 2002 alone. The 1.13-million Army, of course, leads the tally with 92 suicides in 2005, 100 in 2004, and 96 in 2003.

A visibly concerned Army has now gone in for augmentation of psychiatric centres in its Northern and the Eastern Commands from where several such incidents have been reported on a regular basis.

The Army Northern Command covers the violence-riven Jammu&Kashmir state while the areas controlled by its Eastern Command include the country's turbulent north-east.

Psychological counsellors were also being recruited at various levels to be posted in areas where security duties were considered as ''stressful'', a senior officer told mediapersons here today.

Other measures include Yoga and stress-management clases to sensitise troops engaged in ''stressful duties'', and regular analyses of such measures, said Major General RS Sujalana, Additional Director General-Public Information -- and the Army's chief spokesperson.

Faced with relentless internal security duties -- apart from being deployed in hostile terrain ranging from the blazing Thar desert to the glacial heights of Siachen-Saltoro Ridge, the Army is clearly under severe stress and fatigue syndrome.

While jawans also have to tackle inadequate housing, paltry salaries, few promotion avenues, strict leave restrictions and early retirement, the officers, too, are not spared from mental and physical strain.

Gen Sujalana admitted that psychiatric counselling was ''definitely a priority'' since ''no one wants suicides going around....'' The Army briefing here came against a background of the suicide last Thursday of Lieutenant Sushmita Chakraborty at the Army Northern Command headquarters in Udhampur, and that of Captain Sumit Kohli, of the 18 Rashtriya Rifles and posted in Kupwara, on April 30 last.

With respect to Lt Chakraborty's suicide -- allegedly because she was ''dissatisfied and unhappy with her job'', Gen Sujalana denied there was any resistance to induction of women officers in the Army which has 918 women among its 34,000 officers.

Women officers began being inducted into ''non-combat wings'' of the Armed Forces in 1990-91 -- and there are around 430 women among the 10,200 officers in IAF (around 50 are transport and helicopter pilots) while the Indian Navy has a 100-odd women out of its 7,000 officers.


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