Over 100 Army soldiers have been committing suicide annually since 2006, with 2009 being the only exception when the number was a tad lower at 96. Since 2003, a total of 1,018 soldiers have killed themselves.
The Sixth Pay Commission was announced in October 2008 and was implemented in 2009. Some financial gains were made by the jawans and that could be a possible reason for the marginal dip in suicides that year.
This year, 62 soldiers killed themselves till July 31, Defence Minister AK Antony said in the Rajya Sabha. “The major causes of suicide are domestic problems, marital discord, stress and financial problems,” he added. The following have been the suicides each year: 2003 (96), 2004 (100), 2005 (77), 2006 (129), 2007 (118), 2008 (123), 2009 (96), 2010 (115), 2011 (102), Antony said.
The Ministry of Defence and the Army are worried over the tendency of its troops to kill themselves. Not only is a human life lost, it affects the morale of the unit — comprising mostly of men drawn from the same ethnic group.
The latest suicide was last Wednesday when a jawan of 16th Cavalry Regiment, Arun V, hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, killed himself with his service weapon in Samba (Jammu and Kashmir). His angered mates raised slogans against the officers and surrounded their residences in protest. The Army has ordered a Court of Inquiry. Arun V had reportedly been refused leave to go home.
The Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) has been conducting studies which have led to changes in the past. In 2010, it was tasked to provide parameters that would enable officers on the ground to identify and spot “at risk” soldiers. One of the studies was a psychological autopsy of suicides.
Senior officials admit that the number of suicides is worrisome especially after several steps have been initiated in the past few years to improve the quality of life of the personnel. Antony had introduced schemes to allow card facility to jawans and their families to withdraw salaries. The married accommodation project is being implemented to build houses in urban areas to allow families of soldiers to enjoy better quality of life and also access to better education for their children.
Special rations have also been authorised for additional troops serving in high-altitude areas — specially above 12,000 feet. A pilot project has been launched at 20 locations across the country for rail e-ticketing. This facility will replace the system of railway warrants.
Armed forces personnel will be able to book and print e-tickets through IRCTC websites at unit locations. This project will be gradually extended to more than 5,000 Army, Air Force and Navy units across the country.