THE RECENT suicide by Lt Sushmita Chakraborty, a native of Bhopal posted in the Valley, has prompted fresh discussions on the reasons responsible for the growing number of suicides among Army personnel.
Hindustan Times talked to a few senior officers of the Army to know their views and suggestions. Military College of Telecommunications Engineering (MCTE) Commandant Lt Gen Datar said that he had spent 40 years in the Indian Army and felt that there was an environment of tension due to the low intensity conflicts going on and family-related problems, which are responsible for the suicidal acts.
He said that high degree of competition and aspirations for promotions also contribute to this factor. He said the youths join the defence forces after watching films and television serials showing only the glamorous part of this career but there are high degree of challenges and difficult living conditions, which are not taken note of by them.
About the measures taken by the Army to curb this problem, he said that the commanding officers and junior commissioned officers (JCOs) are advised to share the feelings and emotions of the others and a specific training is being imparted for it in all the training institutions including MCTE. In MCTE, the trainee officers are trained to have frequent interactions and give emphasis on entertainment facilities to the troops.
Former Commandant of Infantry School, Mhow Lt Gen (retired) Sher Amir Singh, said that the main reason for suicide cases in Army and paramilitary forces is the growing level of stress which may be either due to the job or family woes.
It is a chemical and metabolic phenomenon. He said that previously the units were deployed at single positions but now due to the counter-insurgency operations going on at many places small groups of troops are deployed at different positions.
Thus, it is seen that the management of the commanding officers previously was very effective due to direct touch with the troops, which is not possible in the present conditions.
As a result of this, troops that are deployed away from the commanding officers are not properly looked after resulting in lowering of the morale of the personnel. Giving a piece of advice to the Army, he said that the best remedy to this problem is including a network of psychologists in the field areas. He said that presently, psychologists are posted only at the Command and base hospitals and they must be posted at all field formations.
Another ex-army officer Major General Gangaprasad said that the reasons are mostly personal which includes frustration for not coping up with the challenges of the service. Before joining the service, the picture of Army in their mind is one providing high standards of lifestyle and lavish bungalows, but when they actually join the services, they have to live in extreme conditions like high altitude and deserts and their self-esteem goes down.
Each and everything is told in the training and 99 per cent adjust to the conditions. Major General Gangaprasad said that an awareness campaign must be launched specially for women officers before they join the services. Apart from it, the troops must be trained in meditation and Yoga to bring down the stress level.