ITBP constable dies after fatally shooting five colleagues: Stress, tough work conditions take toll on mental health of security personnel

Official data does indicate that fratricides among security forces constitute a serious problem.

FP Staff December 05, 2019 22:43:45 IST
ITBP constable dies after fatally shooting five colleagues: Stress, tough work conditions take toll on mental health of security personnel
  • In a suspected case of fratricide, an ITBP jawan allegedly opened fire at his colleagues in Chhattisgarh's insurgency-hit Narayanpur district on Wednesday.

  • Five personnel were killed and two others were injured in the incident, a senior police official said.

  • Data does indicate that fratricides among armed forces constitute a serious problem.

In a suspected case of fratricide, an Indo-Tibetan Police Force (ITBP) jawan allegedly opened fire at his colleagues in Chhattisgarh's insurgency-hit Narayanpur district on Wednesday. Five personnel were killed and two others were injured in the incident, a senior police official said.

The issue on Thursday resonated in the Parliament, with Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury flagging incidents in central forces where colleagues kill each other. Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in the Lok Sabha, Chowdhury said while such incidents were unheard of in the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, the Indian Army had reported similar incidents.

He claimed that such incidents were on the rise in central armed police forces (CAPF) and "may be due to lack of facilities".

ITBP constable dies after fatally shooting five colleagues Stress tough work conditions take toll on mental health of security personnel

Representational image. News18

Indeed, data does indicate that fratricides among armed forces constitute a serious problem. In 2016, the Union home ministry, in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, stated that there were a total of 137 cases of fratricide/killing/firing at colleagues from January 2013 to June 2016. Among these, the overwhelming number of cases were from the BSF (121), followed by CISF (9), CRPF (3), SSB (2), ITBP (1) and AR (1).

From 2016 to 2018, the number of fratricide cases in the army, navy and the air force were four, zero and one, respectively.

The home ministry has cited a number of measures it is taking to improve the mental health of the security personnel. These include training and deployment of psychological counsellors and institutionalisation of projects to reduce stress among troops such as ‘Milap’ and ‘Sahyog’ in Northern & Eastern Command.

The Union government has also claimed that it considers choice posting to the extent available after personnel have served in a "hard area". It has also stated that it has sought to improve living conditions for troops and provide adequate facilities for recreation and entertainment.

Data regarding suicides is also a cause for worry. There were 284 suicides by members of CAPFs from January 2013 to June 2016. Also, from 2016 to 2018, there were 259 suicides by army personnel, 19 suicides by navy personnel and one suicide by an air force personnel.

Reasons for dissatisfaction among armed forces

A study titled "Attrition in CAPFs" by Santhi Jaidev, a Senior Commandant in the CISF sought to understand how the security personnel perceived their own job environment. It found that a majority of them were unhappy with the remuneration, the posting policies and the grievance redressal mechanisms. The study also pointed to the absence of proper health management and medical facilities, as also the absence of proper housing facilities for the personnel.

A long-standing demand of CAPFs has been pay parity with their counterparts from the Indian Police Service through the implementation of the non-functional upgradation (NFU). The Cabinet had approved this move in July 2019, pursuant to a Supreme Court order. However, according to a News18 article, the government has now decided that the NFU grant cannot be given to paramilitary personnel. The home ministry has also moved the Supreme Court seeking a two-month extension to implement the order,

In 2017, a senior army officer was quoted as saying by PTI that the army was actively considering recruiting civilian staff in peace stations to reform the colonial-era Sahayak system, in the wake of rising cases of jawans coming out openly against it.

Under the system, a soldier is attached to an officer for various work including protecting the officer, maintaining his weapons and helping him carry out his responsibilities.

Further, work conditions are particularly tough for some CAPFs. For example, as pointed out in an article in The Indian Express, personnel from the ITBP have to work in snow-bound regions through the year, with hardly any peace stations. BSF personnel also have to work in difficult terrains, such as snow-bound regions, deserts and forests. For CRPF personnel, being on the move most of the time poses a challenge.

There are also some challenges that are unique to CAPFs. For instance, as noted in an article in Outlook, while 60 percent of army personnel are allotted residential quarters, only 11 percent of CAPF personnel get quarters. Further, while army postings alternate between field and peace postings, postings for CAPFs are on a need basis, and they can sometimes remain in field postings for decades.

With inputs from PTI

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