'Stress & strain cause high attrition in Assam Rifles'

'Stress & strain cause high attrition in Assam Rifles'

The number of Assam Rifles personnel taking up voluntary retirement in the past three years has increased more than six times.

The reason: high level of stress and strain caused by continuous deployment in the remote and insurgency-hit Northeast.

According to a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, 876 Assam Rifles personnel had taken voluntary retirement Scheme (VRS).

The number has jumped from 94 in 2015 and 626 in 2017.

Of the 876, 54 are senior officers— the number of whom had also gone up from nine in 2015 and 34 in 2017.

“The committee feels that such high level of attrition may indicate dissatisfaction with the working conditions in the Assam Rifles. Therefore, urgent measures may be taken to improve the working conditions significantly to motivate the personnel to stay, even when they are eligible for taking voluntary retirement, and thus stem this trend of attrition,” the standing committee that submitted the report in the Rajya Sabha said.

The Assam Rifles, more than a century-old paramilitary force, having a sanctioned strength of 66, 412 is now deployed to guard the 1,631-km India-Myanmar border in the Northeast, apart from counter-insurgency operations in the region.

Assam Rifles solely guard the India-Myanmar border, which continues to remain unfenced due to the remote terrain.

The border is used by the Indian insurgent groups to flee to their hideouts in Myanmar after carrying out subversive activities in the Northeast.

The report said that the ministry of home affairs (MHA) informed the committee that the high rate of attrition in the Assam Rifles was due to high level of stress and strain caused mainly by continuous deployment in counter-insurgency environment, separation from family, problems linked to increased number of nuclear family structure, maintaining higher living standards, managing multiple households, children education, and related lifestyle diseases.

The Assam Rifles is under the administrative control of the MHA but is under the ministry of defence for operational purposes.

The committee observed that the dual control system was one of the reasons of Assam Rifles personnel not getting adequate deputation facilities.

“They are unable to go on deputation either to the armed forces or to the central armed police forces and this may have adversely affected the ability to address issues relating to their personal lives.”  

The Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association told the committee that their personnel do not get post-retirement facilities, such as Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme, as availed by the defence ex-servicemen, despite working like the army.

This causes a lot of hardship for the jawans of Assam Rifles and they have the tendency to get frustrated and demotivated, said the committee.

They also struggle with poor roads and communication network, problems in food and safe drinking water and lack of proper channel to air their grievances without disclosing their identity to their commanding officers.

The number casualties during operations had decreased from 36 in 2015 to 12 in 2017 but 164 Assam Rifles personnel had unnatural deaths—50% of which were due to heart, liver and HIV related issues.

Altogether 24 jawans had fallen victims to HIV in the current year, mainly due to the disease's high prevalence in the Northeast.