Accidents and suicides haunt Indian military

Accidents and suicides haunt Indian military

Is there anything wrong with Indian military? In the last three years, 32 aircraft of the Indian Air Force crashed, 24 Naval warships met with accidents and 449 soldiers committed suicide.

In addition, there were eight accidents in the ordnance factories in the last two years and the defence research establishment is short of 2,776 scientists.

The information, disclosed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in Parliament last week, reflects what could be the priority for Parrikar, who has been tasked to cure the ailing defence sector.

IAF aircraft that crashed in the last three years include frontline fighters like Su-30 MKI, Mirage-2000 and Jaguars besides new one like C-130J Super Hercules and Hawk advanced jet trainer.

As many 13 IAF personnel were killed in these accidents in 2014 alone. In the same period, Navy recorded 24 accidents including the catastrophic explosion on board submarine INS Sindhurakshak that sunk the boat, killing all 18 people on board. The death count for Navy stands at 22 since January 2011.

The warships involved in the accidents are INS Delhi, Talwar, Betwa, Vindhyagiri, Viraat and Airavat. The series of accidents led to the resignation of Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi in February after a fire on-board submarine INS Sindhuratna which killed two officers.

While the cause of each accident may be different and is being investigated thoroughly, loss of so many expensive military hardware is also indicative of the age of the fleet and squadrons. Many vessels and aircraft are way past their normal service life, which is being extended by the refits.

The Army, however, seems to be having an issue with the human resource. Since 2011, as many as 362 soldiers in the Army committed suicide. The toll touches 449, if the suicide figures from IAF (76) and Navy (11) are added.

Though the number of fratricide cases have come down compared to what used to be the scenario ten years ago, the rising suicide trend has become a matter of concern for the Defence Ministry. There are 99 suicide cases in 2014 (till November 21) alone.

The reasons include long tenures of continuous deployment, family issues, perceived grievances, personal issues, mental built, financial problems and inability to withstand stress, Parrikar said in yet another written response.

Fire and explosions were reported from eight ordnance factories — four in 2013 and four in 2014 – while there is shortage of 2,776 officers in the defence research and development organisation.

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