An Army Lance Naik shot himself dead at Kaluchak in Jammu on Monday. Yet another suicide in a fighting force, which has recorded an average of 100 suicides a year since 2002.
Reflecting the flagging morale of troops deployed in the counter-insurgency grid, suicides and fratricidal killings -- 23 cases reported in 2006 -- in the Army just do not seem to stop.
A worried government has now decided to rope in the district authorities in a big way to check such incidents.
"When a battalion commander writes to a district collector or a Superintendent of Police about problems faced by families of soldiers, we plan to make it mandatory for them to respond. Jawans are often under stress due to family disputes and property-related problems," a senior MoD official told Hindustan Times.
The decision to involve district administrations in a more meaningful manner as regards issues concerning soldiers was taken at a high-level meeting held in the MoD on Tuesday.
The meeting was chaired by defence secretary Shekhar Dutt and attended by senior officials from the MoD and the armed forces.
The MoD will also direct district authorities to maintain a database of families of soldiers deployed in forward areas to attend to their needs promptly.
The ministry has also decided to set up a high-level inter-services monitoring committee, which will scrutinise every case of suicide and fratricide to pinpoint causes. It will include representatives of the Directorate General of Armed Forces Medical Services and officials from MoD and the armed forces.
This comes after the ministry set up a committee under the chairman of Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) to study the causes of suicides and fratricides. Defence minister AK Antony has already directed the Army to be liberal while granting leave to jawans.
The army's officer cadre has problems of its own. A DIPR study conducted in the northeast over five years has revealed that middle-rung officers are more vulnerable and stressed out than JCOs and jawans.