Stress among jawans, what must be done

It is high time the issues are not swept under the carpet by the authorities concerned.

The killing of three of his colleagues by constable Balveer Singh of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) in Bihar, the video message of Border Security Force (BSF) jawan Tej Bahadur complaining about poor quality of food in his unit, and jawan Jeet Singh highlighting the poor service conditions in Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). have occurred within a week. 

All these three incidents point to increasing stress levels among jawans of Central Paramilitary Forces (CAPF).

The incidents of fratricide are not uncommon among CAPF. Perturbed by similar incidents and also by the fact that a large number of CAPF personnel were prematurely leaving the forces, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) commissioned a study in 2012, which established that stress caused by tough work conditions, separation from their families and lack of basic amenities as the major problem. All the three recent incidents bear this out.

Though the problem was recognised, efforts made to address it seems insufficient. In many uniformed organisations, the quality of food served has often resulted in riots. It is evident that supervision on the part officers to ensure service of quality and wholesome food to their personnel is lacking.

Complaints about food also emanates from perceived pilferage of items like atta, oil and sugar. If officers visit the jawans’ messes and ensure quality, this issue can be resolved.

In so far as grant of leave is concerned, there is nothing much a unit head can do because of vacancies, overstay of leave by personnel and emergencies. It is not always possible to grant leave to those who seek leave.

The unit officer has to exercise discretion and refusal of leave causes a lot of stress as most CAPF jawans are at country’s borders or at hostile territories, far away from home. The only way to tackle this problem is to reserve 20% of sanctioned strength of a unit for leave and other exigencies. Secondly, if all vacancies in a unit are filled up, the unit officers will not be hard pressed to spare their men to avail leave.

Long hours of duty and sleep deprivation is also a cause of stress in CAPF. This can be set right only if adequate staff strength is maintained and regular rotation of duties among personnel is done.

A large number of men from paramilitary forces are deployed on internal security duties.  It may be prudent to take men off such duties periodically so that they are not constantly stressful. 

It also must be ensured that deployment of persons less than a squad strength is never done to ensure proper messing arrangements and operational efficiency. An effective transfer policy to take care of the problem of being far away from home is called for. 

It is established that there is a complete mismatch between the persons selected to man CAPF and the role they need to play. The selection process needs to improve.
What is most important is ensuring the quality of lower level supervisory staff like NCOs and JCOs (non-commissioned and junior commissioned officers). They need to be sensitised to the needs of the jawans. For this, they need  effective training.  Since they are the first contact point with jawans, their handling of situation will go a long way in solving many problems.

Of late, measures have been taken by CAPF to destress their personnel.  Sports, yoga and meditation classes are regularly organised.  Apart from regular medical check-ups, regular psychological assessment is also called for.  If a weapon is given to a person, it is to be ensured that the person handling it is psychologically sound.

Stress levels

It is a known fact that CAPF men who are highly disciplined, do not indulge in undisciplined acts all of a sudden. Only when their stress level reaches the boiling point, they resort to mindless acts. 

The officers supervising jawans both at NCO and JCO levels must be sensitive to the prevalent conditions and must communicate with their seniors on what exactly is happening at the platoon level, so that remedial measures can be taken.

There is a severe shortage of Gazetted Supervisory Officers in all CAPFs and there is also rivalry between those officers recruited directly to CAPFs and those deputed from the Indian Police Service (IPS).  This is also a cause for various problems.  The leadership of CAPFs at all levels need improvement.

The CRPF jawan has spoken about the disparity in pay between school teachers and CAPF jawans. The CAPF personnel have long been complaining about pay disparity with the army.  Despite the Seventh Pay Commission implementation, such complaints continue.  This needs to be resolved.

It is high time that these problems are not swept under the carpet like in the past by the authorities concerned but address them head on.

(The writer is the former Director General of Police, Karnataka)

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