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6 out of 1 lakh soldiers victim of suicide, fratricide: DRDO

Dhamra (Odisha): Cases of suicides and fratricides among Indian soldiers has reduced to six per lakh this year from about 14 per lakh a few years ago, premier defence agency DRDO has said.

In the defence agency`s psychological research lab in Delhi, scientists and psychologists are trying to understand the conditions under which soldiers take such extreme steps.
"We have been successful in bringing down the number of such cases from 13-14 per lakh few years ago to 6 per lakh now," Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) Director General Dr V K Saraswat told PTI here.

"To moderate the tremendous stress under which combat troops live, we are accordingly developing courses to train them and spot those who can be a victim," Saraswat, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Minister of Defence said.

Pointing out that soldiers stationed in adverse conditions, like those in Siachen, were prone to stress, he said, "They are worried about their family`s welfare. Often some of them want to go home to be with their family to take care of household problems. When they don`t get leave, they go into stress mode and often take the extreme step."

To make sure that the life of the soldier was comfortable in adverse conditions, DRDO is looking at the physiological needs, psychological aspects, bio-medical requirements, and even ergonomics.

A study by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR) had recently estimated that 70 per cent of suicides occur at peace stations instead of combat zones, mainly because of family or financial issues.

DRDO`s head of research and development Dr W Selvamurthy said to equip soldiers to handle stress during posting at high altitudes, they were being trained in yoga from instructors of the National Institute of Yoga. "We also have introduced counsellors for those who need it along with a number of stress management programs and courses," the scientist said.

Going beyond the psychological aspects of stress, the DRDO has now added cognitive aspects as well in their study. "Even the criteria for selection of soldier is based on this. We study his attitude, mental soundness, intellectual capabilities to mitigate all kinds of dangers, etc," Dr Saraswat said.

Last month, Defence Minister A K Antony had informed the Rajya Sabha that 1,426 personnel died due to suicides and fratricides since 2000. Among other steps the department has suggested is to start a rotation policy of deploying soldiers under adverse circumstances for a particular period.

"We are also sensitising the Rajya Sainik Boards on this and establishing a grievance redressal mechanism in states," Saraswat said, adding that the quality of food and clothing has improved while married accommodation has also been introduced.

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