Even as stress-related fratricide incidents continue in paramilitary forces, a government study has found more than 70% of BSF personnel were under-sleeping and facing abusive and harsh behaviour from their seniors.
The study chronicles many damning revelations on the state and fitness of BSF troopers, who guard two of the most crucial Indian frontiers along Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The first of its kind study on 'Emotional Intelligence and Occupational Stress' of BSF jawans and officers also narrates various reasons for the "high" stress the troopers, deployed along inhospitable and risky locations, face.
"The study shows that the overall levels of stress are quite high in the force. This study itself is just a beginning, touching the tip of the iceberg. It did not have the required time and very accurate tools to measure the stress levels in the force. Still it is indicative of the problem being faced (by the BSF)," the report, recently submitted to the home ministry, said.
"More than 70% report not getting adequate rest and sleep and the number is larger for the Other Ranks (jawans and constables). Many mentioned getting as little as four hours sleep on a regular basis. Such physical exhaustion and sleep deprivation leads to chronic stress and affects performance badly," the report said.
The 136-page study also found that an average BSF jawan has to face bad behaviour, abusive language and that he fears a syndrome -- not to commit a single error.
A total of 161 jawans and officers out of the 1.7-lakh personnel from both western and eastern frontiers took part in the study which was done on the hypothesis that "people with higher emotional intelligence will have lower occupational stress" and to suggest measures to tackle fratricide and suicide cases in the forces.
Senior IPS officer and Inspector General in the BPRD, Manoj Chhabra conducted the study. The Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD) is the apex body under the Home Ministry for undertaking development projects in subjects plaguing Indian police forces.
The study, released recently by home secretary RK Singh, found that the present number of psychiatric cases are not a true reflection of the ground realities.
"These cases only reflect the persons who have broken down, but there are a large number of persons who are suffering badly and may be leading towards a breakdown immediately. There is an urgent requirement of providing trained counselors and psychologist/psychiatrists who can handle the issue in a professional manner," the report said.
"Many Other Ranks have responded that the seniors are often unduly harsh, abusive and sometimes even sadistic. While they do not expect all their grievances to be addressed by the superiors, they are often hurt by the approach of the seniors who treat their grievances as complaining, whining and attempts to avoid work," it said.
Almost half of the respondents mentioned that they are stressed out due to the constant fear that even a genuine error will be treated as negligence and they will be punished.
There is no job where mistakes are not made and human beings will sometimes make mistakes but living in constant fear of this does not bring out the best, rather it brings a no-risk-no initiative approach.
"Everyone is constantly covering his backside," it said.
"Many mentioned that the seniors are always ready to suspect them and there is no trust. They will believe outsiders and rumours rather than the jawans. Constant suspicion and fear does not augur well for the organisation. A more calibrated 'Trust but Verify' approach is required to get the best out of the force," the report said.
The study also found that leaves were the biggest reason after sleep for stress in 67% of jawans and 50% of subordinate and senior officers.
"There are many issues mixed here, it is not just the amount of leave but the fact that it is not granted when required. It is obviously not possible to satisfy all, but the dissatisfaction levels are very high. Further, there is a widely held perception that the system is not implemented fairly, favouritism is rife and some get it as and when they want it and others don't, even when the need is urgent," it said.
The crux is that stress levels in the force are rising and the issue needs to be addressed squarely. There are no studies as yet conducted on the emotional intelligence in the BSF or any of the central paramilitary therefore this is practically virgin territory, the study said.