International

‘Over 100 Indian soldiers commit suicide every year’

NEW DELHI: An Indian soldier committed suicide on Wednesday along the Line of Control (LoC), exposing wide-ranging issues including their poor salaries, lack of basic amenities and severe mental stress in the face of prolonged deployment at the border.

The armed forces continue to lose around 100 personnel to suicides, said Indian Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre  in his address to the parliament recently.

He had mentioned that as many as 125 military personnel took the extreme step to end their lives in 2016.

Bhamre said 101 soldiers, 19 airmen and five sailors committed suicide last year, with another three cases of fratricide (to kill a fellow soldier or superior) being reported from the three Services.

Why do they suicide?

In 2017 till date, 13 Indian Army soldiers have already committed suicide, while two such cases have been reported from the Indian Air Force.

According to Times of India analysis, soldiers posted in far-flung areas often undergo tremendous mental stress for not being able to take care of the problems being faced by their families back home, which could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems.

Prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and Northeast also takes a toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers. All this is also compounded by poor salaries, lack of basic amenities, denial of leave and ineffectual officer leadership.

Minister tries to ‘cover up’

Bhamre, on his part, stressed the government had taken various measures to prevent such incidents. “These include improvement in living and working conditions through provision of better infrastructure and facilities; additional family accommodation; liberalised leave policy; establishing grievance redressal mechanism; conduct of yoga and meditation as part of the unit routine etc,” he said.

“A large number of officers have been trained as counsellors to provide counselling to defence personnel and their families. Civilian psychological counsellors have also been employed to provide mental health services. Psychologists also visit units and formations from time to time to carry out counselling, individually and at times in groups,” he added.

According to reports, as many as 597 military personnel committed suicide in 5 years between 2009 and 2013.

Read: Pakistan Army leads world forces with zero-percent suicide rate

In the Army, by far the largest of the three services, for instance, 116 soldiers committed suicide in 2010, 105 in 2011 and 95 in 2012. In 2013, at least 86 soldiers committed suicide, the figure for airmen and sailors stood at 15 and 6.

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