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On their feet far too long

comment Updated: Jul 01, 2014 23:38 IST
Hindustan Times

In this day and age when threats of terror attacks are real and permanent, securing a sensitive installation like the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is an undeniably hard task.

While having an adequate number of security men at the airport is important what is of equal, if not more, importance is their physical and mental fitness since only an alert and fit force can make the difference in the case of a terror attack.

However, a report in Hindustan Times on Monday states that Delhi’s showpiece T3 (IGIA) airport is being manned by fatigued Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel who are coping with exhausting 15-18 hour shifts after a recent ‘verbal’ order said that the personnel should not be seen sitting around.

The CISF has defended its stand, saying that the personnel entrusted with the job of guarding such an important facility must not only be on their feet but be seen to be on their feet and ready for any eventuality.

While no one is questioning the view that the force must be on their toes all the time, overuse of any personnel will not exactly fetch the results the CISF bosses are seeking.

Other than being physically exhausting, such ‘do not sit’ orders can be demoralising too. However, this is not the only example of how India’s foot soldiers often find themselves shortchanged.

A couple of years ago, after a major Maoist attack in West Bengal’s Silda, it was found that the Eastern Frontier Rifles personnel did not have proper facilities and ammunition. The same has often been found in the CRPF camps of Chhattisgarh. Taxing working conditions coupled with denial of leaves have led to several cases of fratricide in the Indian Army also.

A 2008 study of stress and psychiatric morbidity in the CISF says that “subjective stress caused by daily living or working situations” may lead to mental health problems, leading further to changes in job performance and quality of life.

Among many other recommendations, the study said that appropriate changes must be made in the organisational system so as to minimise the stressful factors at work by regularising the duration of work, defining their roles, having uniform policies for promotion and obtaining leave. Such recommendations need to be taken seriously because the quality of personnel is as important as quantity when it comes to fending off attacks.