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IANS

Amid rising incidents of suicides and fratricide, the Central government needs to initiate measures to check these incidents and the security personnel need to be de-stressed by taking steps to ensures adequate leave to them with a healthy camaraderie between senior and junior levels across the forces.

Recently, in back to back incidents of fratricide this month, the BSF lost seven of its personnel.

On March 6, five BSF jawans were killed in an incident of fratricide in Khasa in Punjab's Amritsar where a constable, identified as Satteppa S.K., fired at five of his colleagues in the camp, which is located 20 km from the Attari-Wagah border.

Next day on March 7, a BSF constable shot dead a colleague before shooting himself with his service rifle in West Bengal's Murshidabad.

According to official data, a total of 193 suicides have been reported in the force since 2018, with 52 incidents being registered in 2021 alone while 23 security personnel were killed in 15 incidents of fratricide since 2018.

Analysing the possible causes of the incidents of suicide and fratricide in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), former BSF DG Prakash Singh told IANS that the personnel seem to be under tremendous stress because of the pressure of their duties. Also the fact that they remain posted in hard areas for a long time and sometimes do not get adequate leave.

"Earlier, the BSF formation was of only six companies, subsequently the government of India decided to increase the strength to seven companies and said that the seventh company will always be on training. The BSF officers also agreed that the seventh company will always remain on training, now I found that the seventh company is also deployed.

"Once the entire strength of the battalion is deployed, no company will be going for training, rest and recuperation and it is duty, duty and duty round the year except when the security personnel go on leave and sometimes this leave is also not sanctioned adequately," Singh added.

Soon after the fratricidal incident in which four CRPF jawans were killed and three injured in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh in November 2021, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which has administrative control over all the CAPFs, directed them to initiate welfare measures like a "get-together" like ‘Chaupal' or open informal meetings of the officers and the juniors across all ranks and file to know the reasons behind their stress and strain and to find solutions to their problems.

The Ministry order specifically asked the DGs of all CAPFs to ensure good behaviour and camaraderie between the senior and junior officers.

Noting that the CAPF personnel are over stressed, Singh stated that there was scope of improving the man-management in the forces. He said that the senior officers have more responsibility to create healthy relations and it depends on how they treat their juniors, how they attend to their issues including their personal and family issues.

"When we were in service, we were expected to take care of their issues and needs. We were looked upon as ‘Mai-Baap' (parents) and were expected to address the needs and issues of the personnel. In recent years, the gap between officers and junior constabulary has widened, a gulf has been created. The officers should fraternise with them, dine with them, play with them and create a healthy camaraderie among the force," Singh commented, adding that better relations with juniors will definitely improve the situation and will encourage them to speak out about their issues.

The Ministry also constituted a task force under the chairmanship of the CRPF and Assam Rifles DGs to find out the reasons for the suicides and fratricide in the CAPF and asked them to submit their report within three months.

The ‘Task Force' was mandated to identify the relevant risk factors and protective factors at the individual level such as past suicide attempts, impulsivity as a personality trait, mental issues, alcohol or other drug abuse, aggressive tendencies, acute emotional crises, acute severe physical illness, or chronic physical illnesses, acute stressful life events and job stress. It was also asked to suggest possible measures to check these incidents.

The postings in hard areas for longer periods often led to a rise in the dissatisfaction level among the personnel. Away from their families for long periods, family related issues and education of the children are the main reasons for their frustration especially in the lower ranks, an official of the force said.

He admitted that the government has been providing all possible facilities such as better schools and accommodation for families in the battalion headquarters even if the jawan is posted in the border areas or away from the family but the number is less.

"The government needs to create more infrastructure for the security personnel," an Inspector level officer said on condition of anonymity.

Regarding transfer postings in the CAPFs, the MHA asked all the forces to develop software based transfer postings in 2020. Some forces have adopted the software aided transfer posting wherein a security personnel is possibly given a relatively easy duty after a tenure of a hard posting. This has been enabled in some forces but other forces are still to implement it.

Longer duty hours because of shortage of manpower is another reason for stress among these security personnel. According to a report, over 80,000 CAPF personnel have taken voluntary retirement or have resigned from service in the last one decade and the process of fresh recruitments is very slow.

"Because of the inadequate number of security personnel, they have to be on duty beyond the sanctioned hours and sometimes they even do not get adequate leave to visit their homes."

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