High stress

High stress

A study on emotional intelligence and occupational stress in the Border Security Force (BSF) shows that our paramilitary troopers are under enormous stress.

It appears that over 70 per cent of BSF troopers suffer from inadequate sleep and tension arising from abuse and harsh treatment by seniors.  The environment in which BSF personnel operate is tense at the best of times. After all, they hold vigil along our borders. Prior to the ceasefire along the border with Pakistan, BSF troopers came under fire almost daily from Pakistani soldiers.

While that has reduced significantly since 2004, they have to keep vigil for long hours to ensure that terrorists do not infiltrate the borders. This has resulted in a high-tension working environment. Such stress would have been ameliorated somewhat if BSF troopers had time to relax and recoup themselves. Unfortunately, they are forced to work long hours and are able to grab just about four hours of sleep per day. Worse, rarely are they allowed to take leave to go home and visit family. In the circumstances, it is not surprising that the BSF is reporting high stress levels among its jawans.

 India’s defence establishment has been complaining of high attrition rates. Personnel are quitting in droves. Apart from stress, poor working conditions, remuneration and benefits are often cited as the reasons. There have been several instances too in recent years of soldiers turning their weapons on themselves or opening fire on their colleagues or seniors.

These are cases where simmering stress has erupted to the fore. In the bulk of the cases, however, the tension does not manifest in the open. But it is no less dangerous as it affects the health and performance of the personnel. This means that those who are guarding our borders might not be as alert and efficient as they should be.

 Military and paramilitary personnel put their lives on the line to defend our borders. Not only do they work and live in a hostile environment but also they are separated from their families for most of the year. They are thus denied the supportive environment that families generally provide.

In the circumstances, psychological support from trained professionals is necessary. The government must step in with counselling and other support. Besides, jawans should be provided with incentives and encouragement. Senior officers must be made to understand that issuing orders need not be in harsh language and that abuse diminishes personal drive and determination.