Alarmed by the sharp rise in the number of fratricide and suicide cases in the Army, Defence Minister A K Antony is set to review the working conditions with three services and defence psychologists on Thursday.
Almost every year in the last decade, about 100 Army men committed suicide, most of the time using service weapons and injuring others, which in Army parlance is known as fratricide. The death count was the lowest in 2005 (83) and highest in 2006 (142).
In the last 12 years, Army lost 1158 men out of which 1082 were fratricide and 76 were suicide cases. There is no let up in numbers.
The toll is lesser in the other two services. Between 2000 and 2012, Navy lost only 27 of its men whereas the count was 256 for the Air Force. Army bore the maximum brunt.
Army officials said marital discords are one of the major causes of stress amongst the troops. Other causative factors include financial issues, lack of family accommodation and social problems in their villages and towns about which they received regular updates via cellphones.
Erosion of leadership
Even though Antony had informed the Parliament that “erosion of leadership” was not a contributing factor, but suicide of a soldier from 16 Cavalry in Samba sector in Jammu and Kashmir last month had reportedly created a rift between officers and soldiers of the unit.
A court of enquiry is going on to analyse the circumstances and find out the guilty, if any.
The defence minister will review service conditions with defence secretary, Vice Chiefs of Army, Air Force and Navy as well as with clinical psychologists from Defence Institute on Psychological Research (DIPR), Delhi.
DIPR had studied the issue in detail and recommended modification of service conditions and training module almost six years ago when incidences of rise in fratricide and suicide cases first came to the lime light.
The government claimed to have taken steps like counselling, improvement in the quality of food and clothing, married accommodation, leave concessions, facilities for movement of troops from border areas and establishing a grievance redressal mechanism for armed forces personnel in states to prevent such incidents. But the suicide and fratricide cases are continuing unabated in the armed forces.