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Suicide Of Soldiers: A Grave Concern For India's Defence

By Ravi Nitesh

04 May, 2016

Soldiers are the most vital part of Indian Defence System. Not only through strategic actions of securities, but even in political tools, such as in glamorising nationalism and sacrifice, it is they who have sacrificed their lives.

Their lives are in danger and there are so many incidents where attacks happened upon them, from Chhatisgrah to Assam to Manipur to J&K and other areas. They lost their lives in defence of the common people of the territory that they are serving.

There have also been many cases reports of soldiers violating human rights of even extreme nature. Such human rights violations in areas with applicability of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are very common and ranges from torture to rape and even fake killings. Security agencies (of Govt of India) did not admit such violations easily and claim that soldiers who are doing this are actually innocent as they have not done anything wrong. It is a fact that many investigations conducted even by Government's own appointed committee have proved that the accused persons (soldiers) were guilty, but as they are members of defence and working under the powers of AFSPA, they have not been subjected to any prosecution in civil courts.

Now, on 02 May 2016, Manohar Parrikar, the Defense Minister stated in Loksabha that 77 members of Army have committed suicide in the year 2015. Data for previous years is 84 in 2014 and 86 in 2013. He also informed that in these three years, 9 cases of fratricide were reported in army itself, while there was no case of fratricide in navy and only 1 case in airforce.

Mr. Parrikar accepted that government has taken various measures to reduce stress and to prevent such incidents. Some of the measures include improvement in living and working conditions through provision of better infrastructure and facilities, additional family accommodation, liberalised leave policy, establishing grievance redressal system, provision of counselling by psychological counsellors, yoga and meditation etc.

With this acceptance, it is very much clear that soldiers are subjected to a lifestyle where stress can move them to commit suicide and even force them to kill their colleagues. If this is the case, then why it is hard to accept that the same stress can result in killing of others? and what if these 'others' may belong to a group of protesters in areas like J&K and North East, where even such doing is under the ambit of (mis)utilising powers they are equipped with?

If we see the data of fatalities (not suicide or fratricide) of security personal on duty, we find that a total of 193, 161 and 155 security persons lost their lives in the years 2013, 2014 and 2015. This record includes all security force personnel including paramilitary staff.

It is clear with comparison of both the data that India is losing at least half of its personnel without a fight or due to 'system sickness' with respect to fatalities on duty. With such a huge military service where Indian army is one of the largest in the world, such conditions only prove that there is a greater need of improvement.

Government must focus on the procedure of deployment of army personnel and adopt a humanitarian approach with facilities for them. If such a high rate of suicide will prevail within army, this itself is a human rights violations of soldiers as if there is such an intensity among them to suicide, it is a matter of grave concern. There is also a possibility that with such intensity, their stress buster can be any innocent person as well.

Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
follow on twitter: www.twitter.com/ravinitesh Blog: www.ravinitesh.blogspot.com



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