IN a report, India’s defence ministry has indicated that despite psychological counselling and compulsory yoga exercises, suicides and fragging (fratricidal killing) among forces remained unabated.
Even 40 per cent of women, rarely deputed for combat duty, in paramilitary forces committed suicides. More servicemen are killed in suicides than in action.
One jawan committed suicide every three days. During the last six years, approximately 700 personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces have committed suicide and the rate of voluntary retirement is approximately 9,000 personnel per year.
The suicides and killed in action ratio is highest in Sashastra Seema Bal (1:8), followed by Central Industrial Security Force, (1:63) and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (1:4).
The ministry attributed fragging and suicides to ‘personal or family stress’. But the ex-servicemen blamed ‘undemocratic’ pay-and-allowance differential between officers and other ranks.
Their main demands, as highlighted in a peaceful sit in, are: (a) one rank, one pay; parity between pay and perks of commissioned officers and non-commissioned ranks. They claimed that the jawans are always in ‘line of fire’ and face maximum threat to their life.
(b) The untouchability and ghetto system practised by all armed forces and ancillary services to be abolished. (c) Elimination of sewadari (batmanship) system from army. Soldiers are for fighting wars not serving as domestic servants.
(d) Re-structuring and modernising forces in professional manner by removing colonial discrimination by their roots, akin to American army.
(e) Abolition of VVIP racism in the armed forces where even decent washrooms are not provided to jawans.
(f) Providing secure platforms to jawans to complain about officers’ corruption without fear of retribution (whistle-blower protection).
The real cause of fragging and suicides is muffled frustration at killing innocent people.
Published in Dawn, March 8th, 2019