Soldiers suicide: 425 in the Army, IAF, Navy since 2014

Soldiers suicide: 425 in the Army, IAF, Navy since 2014

As many as 425 Indian soldiers from the Army, Air Force and Navy committed suicide in the last four years, in yet another demonstration of an unfortunate trend that dogs the armed forces for years.

The maximum number of suicide cases were reported from nearly 12 lakh strong Army where nine officers and 326 soldiers took their lives. This is followed by the IAF which reported suicide of five officers and 67 airmen since 2014.

The Navy is the least affected service with two officers and 16 sailors committing suicides in the last four years, the Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The maximum number of suicides was reported in 2016 (129) followed by 2014 (109) and 2015 (95). This year 92 cases have been reported so far.

The statistics reflect an abject trend of the Army witnessing more "physical casualties," coming from suicides, road accidents and fratricide cases rather than "battle casualties" that happen in the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.

Physical casualties in the Army is more than 12 times the number of battle casualties with road accidents and suicide being the two major culprits. Multiple directives were issued in the recent months to check the fitness of the drivers, sensitise them on safe driving and punishing the errant drivers as a deterrent.

What adds to the woes of the military is the premature retirement taken by thousands of soldiers to leave the military early at a time when the armed forces are facing a shortage of nearly 60,000 personnel.

According to the details provided by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha, the deficiency of officers in the Army, Navy and the Indian Air Force is 9,259 while the number for below officer rank personnel is 50,363.

Bhamre told the Parliamentarians that nearly 42,000 soldiers took premature retirement from the three services since 2014. The maximum number of the premature retirement was reported from the Army with 803 officers and 38,150 soldiers (up to March 2017) opt for severing their ties with the military.

"Various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create a  healthy and appropriate environment for the officers and other ranks," Bhamre said.

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