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Chronic stress: Deadliest enemy within the ranks

india Updated: Aug 27, 2007 02:22 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The sustained deployment of over 2.5 lakh troops in the low intensity conflict (LICO) grid has begun to take its toll on the army.

The recommendations in the Kargil Review Committee Report as well as military psychologists suggest that prolonged and chronic stress among the troops involved in counter-insurgency operations is among the key factors responsible for growing suicide cases in the army.

Cracking under pressure

• Over 543 soldiers deployed in LICO grid have committed suicide since 2002. Over 100 have attempted suicide
• Military psychologists say prolonged and chronic stress in the counter-insurgency areas is a triggering factor
• They add that constant threat of imminent attack by the enemy, lack of proper rest and long working hours complicate the situation further

Defence Minister AK Antony told Parliament last week that 543 soldiers had committed suicide since 2002 and over 100 had attempted suicide during this period.

The committee, which tabled its recommendations in Parliament in February 2000, had cautioned the government that army’s prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations was leading to fatigue.

The report also warned that it was resulting in development of a mindset that detracts the army from its primary role: defending the country from external aggression. It underlined the pressing need to evolve a long-term strategy to reduce the involvement of army in counter-insurgency operations, especially against the background of Pakistan’s unrelenting hostility towards India.

The committee, headed by noted defence analyst K. Subrahmanyam, had observed that Pakistan had ruthlessly employed terrorism in Punjab, J&K and the northeast to involve the Indian Army in counter-insurgency operations and neutralise its conventional superiority.

However, the committee’s recommendations to the government to reduce dependence on the army to fight insurgency appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Army sources said the reduction of army component in counter-insurgency operations, as visualised through the creation of Rashtriya Rifles battalions, had not yielded the desired results. Troops are overstrained in the LICO environment with the stress manifesting itself in a surge in suicides and fratricide, an officer said.

Military psychologists say constant threat of imminent attack by the enemy, lack of proper rest and long working hours complicate the situation further.