Suicide Cases in Defence
One person on duty from Armed Forces commits suicide every three days. According to data compiled by the Ministry of Defence for the period January 1, 2014 to March 31st, 2017 three hundred and forty eight personnel committed suicide while on duty. OF these 276 were from the Army, 12 from Navy and sixty from the Air Force. In the preceding four years 597 personnel of Army committed suicide: 116 in 2010, 105 in 2011, 95 in 2012 and 86 in 2013. In past as now the Ministry of Defense blames personal reasons including land related disputes back home and apathy shown by civil authorities towards such problems for the recurring occurrence of suicide.
Various steps have been taken by the Armed Forces to create healthy and favourable environment for their Officers and Other Ranks. Some of these steps are as under:-
- Provision of better quality of facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc. and periodic welfare meeting.
- Conduct of yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management.
- Training and deployment of psychological counsellors.
- Institutionalization of projects ‘MILAP’ and ‘SAHYOG’ by Army in Northern & Eastern Command to reduce stress among troops.
- A ‘MansikSahayata Helpline’ has been established by Army & Air Force to take professional counselling.
- Mental Health Awareness is provided during pre-induction training.
- Formation of Military Psychiatry Treatment Centre at INHSAsvini and establishment of Mental Health Centres in Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, Kochi, Port Blair, Goa and Karwar.
Despite all the measures taken by the Government over the years to address the personal grievances of the armed forces personnel if they continue to occur then it seems that Government is also being parsimonious in acknowledging the role played by other factors. Because most of the suicides occur while on duty and mostly reported from Jammu and Kashmir or the North East, the link between suicide with stress and trauma related to their active duty in operations cannot be discounted. While prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and northeast takes its toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers, it is compounded by other problems such as ineffectual leadership and sometimes humiliation at the hands of their officers.
Given that armed forces of the union are treated as ‘holy cows’ and there is reluctance to raise issues that have to do with structural problems the public is oblivious of these problems. In 2015 when Ex-Servicemen went on strike on the issue of One Rank One Pay and held their dharna at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar, parallel to them was an agitation launched by an organization called Voice of Ex-Servicemen Society (VESS) to highlight the fact that the interests of Personnel Below Officer Rank and commissioned officers were quite different. Quiet apart from pay/allowance related matters where they sought parity between PBOR and Officer Rank because they claimed that the Jawans are always in ‘line of fire’ and face ‘maximum threat to their life in any conflict’ more startlingly, VESS spoke about discrimination and exploitation of the Jawans within the AFU. Their charter of demand for the Dharna held in New Delhi on 2nd August 2015 contains some very significant issues:
. The untouchability and ghetto system practiced by all Armed forces Ancillary services to be abolished. e.g. AWHO projects have separate enclaves for Officers and PBORs, even though cost of the dwellings are same for both.
. Elimination of sewadari system from Army. Soldiers are for Fighting wars – not domestic servants
. Re-structuring and modernising forces in professional manner by removing colonial discrimination by their roots, in similar ways of modern Forces similar lines of American Army.
. Discrimination prevalent in armed forces should be eliminated in all it form. Forces have become VVIP racism hubs with almost every facility being reserved for officers, including toilets.