Stretch your arms, wiggle your toes, extend your legs, breath deep and easy…and the troopers lined up at their camp premises in the capital do exactly as they are told. But this is no combat training.
It is a yoga class here for Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel to battle the enemy within – stress and fatigue.
Yoga instructor Anoop Shukla conducts classes for troopers to help bust mental, emotional and psychological problems that they may have developed during their long duty hours.
‘Yoga will also help them increase their alertness, concentration after long duty hours,’ Shukla told IANS. He has so far held five classes in two weeks at the Bawana-based 89th Battalion of the CRPF in Delhi.
Faced with a high suicide rate, the CRPF has over the last few years been making concerted efforts to make life easier for its personnel in insurgency areas like Jammu and Kashmir and those under Maoist influence, where they serve for long periods, away from their families and always remain in danger of being killed or maimed.
Official figures released late last year show that since 2007, 143 of the 300,000-strong force had committed suicide, which is double the figure for the Border Security Force (BSF). Seventy-five BSF troopers have ended their lives since 2007, according to official data.
A CRPF man shot himself dead with his service rifle in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir last month. The reason for the extreme step was not known but such killings are not so uncommon and mostly attributed to stress.
Fratricidal killings have also alarmed troopers posted in Kashmir, where CRPF personnel slog through gruelling conditions which include managing law and order and also fighting insurgents in areas outside the domain of the Indian Army.
An internal study of the CRPF of 2008 said 48 personnel were killed in gun battles from 2002 to 2007 in the country. But shockingly, 46 CRPF personnel committed suicide in 2007 alone.
The study was however dismissive of the perception that personnel were committing suicide because of their job conditions. It suggested that the ‘personal problems’ of security personnel were proving more fatal.
But according to a senior CRPF officer who didn’t want to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, ‘Posting in counter-insurgency areas takes a heavy toll on the mental health of troopers, and stress management and yoga training are regularly conducted to avoid it.’
The force has also institutionalised stress management measures. It includes counselling by seniors and lectures by religious teachers, rest and, of course, yoga.
A 2010 study on the issue by Col. K.C. Dixit, an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), said soldiers in comparison to civilians were always in ‘an ideal stress’ breeding environment due to frequent and large number of uncertainties and changes.
The study about the psychological effects of low intensity conflict operations on soldiers says such operations ‘are characterized by limitations of armaments, tactics and levels of force applied’.
‘In such operations, the security forces end up fighting an elusive enemy in the absence of reliable intelligence and have to face active resentment of the local population. Ambiguity of aim, lack of visible success and high casualty rates tend to erode the morale among security forces.’
Yoga instructor Shukla agreed and said constant exposure to conflict operations put tremendous psychological pressure on soldiers that erodes their morale.
Some 500 personnel and officers of the CRPF participated in the yoga and mental alertness training, he said, adding he would be conducting similar sessions with troopers in Maoist areas also.
-via News One