Army Personnel Under Stress
USI (United Service Institute of India, https://usiofindia.org/ ) conducted a survey and research on Army personnel and found that there has been a significant increase in stress level among the Indian Army personnel in last 2 decades due operational as well as non-operational reasons. That the Indian Army has been losing its combatants due to such stress, leading to suicide, fratricide and untoward incidents, than in combat against the enemy or anti-terrorist activities. That at present such stressed personnel are more than 50%. This research was carried out by a Colonel.
This survey took USI approximately one year to conclude and it took help from AFMS (Armed Forces Medical Services), which is part of all the four-military wing; Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast guard. The survey and research, therefore, can be taken to be authentic and accurate. The USI webpage containing this is removed, reasons though not given but can be understood.
Few reasons enumerated in the above research and my own analysis, along with possible immediate solutions are discussed and listed below are:
Increase in terrorism and militancy
The armed forces are meant to fight against the enemy on the border but are used extensively in natural calamities, disaster, Internal Security duties. There had been a rise in all of them, more so in terrorism, be in West or East India and even in Central India. There had been increasing of Army intervention, in addition to Para Military Forces and police in such activities. Recent Sino-India conflict did not spread beyond Ladakh but the role of border surveillance by the foot soldiers in almost all the inaccessible areas have increased.
Denial of Leave
This issue is old, and say it is chronic problem of the Armed Forces, but has deepened due to increased tasks of the Army and lack of manpower, even the authorized manpower is not fulfilled. Even if leave is granted but not as planned by the soldiers to take care of their family issues, like children’s education or marriage, land cultivation, to fulfil parents need, etc. leads to stress. The logic behind 60 days of Annual Leave (It is not earned leave, that is, once AL lapses, it cannot be passed on to next year, neither it can be en-cashed) must be understood and honoured.
Food, Clothing, Equipment
These issues have been coming on media often, and even on social media. The authorities instead of solving them, have taken a course to “discipline” the complainant. If your soldiers are unhappy with the basic needs, how do you expect them to deliver the best when the nation is in need, and here the best means even life. Modern equipment increases faith in its own Army, victory, morale.
Lack of Entertainment, Mobile Facilities
It is difficult for the civilians to appreciate the lifestyle of the soldiers and even the officers living in field areas, where the family accommodation is neither available, nor allowed, and even other normal amenities are unavailable, which are available even in remote rural areas. It becomes worse on high altitude (above 10,000 feet), inaccessible areas. Blanket banning Mobiles is punishment, as this is one of a basic need of the mankind today, and more so for these soldiers, who need to be in touch with their parents, children and wives. By the way, smart mobile phones are means of entertainment and stress reliever.
Bad Behavior of Senior Officers
This issue is well known in Army and top brass had tried also to solve it, but remains an Achilles Heals. You do not have to have ugly behavior to discipline your troops.
Busy in Social Functions and at Officers’ Residence
We have Women’s Welfare Associations in all the Armed Forces Wings, like AFWWA, AWWA, NAWA. They are doing good jobs in collecting money, rehabilitating the war widows and others, wors k as a platform for the wives of soldiers and officers, etc. However, the soldiers have been “deployed” to carry out work without incentives and is demoralizing for many of them. The menial or any work at officers’ residences is further degradation of the soldiers. The “batman” system (Sahayak) resembles that of feudal one and there was representation to remove it but the then COAS, Gen Rawat refused it. (Army Chief Bipin Rawat defends the ‘sahayak’ system https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/defence/army-chief-bipin-rawat-defends-the-buddy-system/articleshow/56520656.cms?from=mdr )
Domestic Problem, Train Reservation, Lack of Police/Administration Help
Sounds silly. Everyone has domestic problems, like children’s education, old parents’ health, house construction, etc. Soldiers have a much bigger problem, as they are hardly at home, except when at peace station. Mostly leaves, especially the Casual Leave, which is given to meet the emergencies, need reservation at short notices. And when they are at their villages, Kasbas, small towns (Most soldiers are from here only), and when need help of police, administration, even courts, they find them lacking, and even hostile.
Lack of Promotion and Financial Aid
The soldiers in the Army, if do not get the promotion (Pyramid structure) retire only after 20 years of services when their family needs them to be in services. Transparency in promotion lacks in all services in all the ranks. Incidentally, the demand of OROP was to meet that requirement or their resettlement in other public sectors but till now not granted. Now if the recommendation of Gen Rawat, CDS, is approved and implemented, their pension will reduce by half.
Lack of Quality in Leadership, Cut-Throat Competition, Degradation in Pay and Status in Comparison to Civil Officials, Zero Error Syndrome, Lack of 100% Accommodation, Frequent Postings: There are innumerable reasons for stress, tension to grow in military men and women, in almost all the ranks, and in all the branches, corpse. Not to make the article too big, it is worth noting that the organization, the government are aware of the existing problem but lack the will and ability to tackle them and their first reaction is to mask the problem, and if one brings them out, punish him to “discipline” him.
Here it is also worth noting that, the research paper finds that the pride for the uniform is much more in soldiers than the officers. No reason is given for that, but it seems that the background of the soldiers (From peasants’ families, small towns, villages, rural areas) and happiness/self-achievement/job-satisfaction that they get after getting uniforms, arms training, and qualitative difference in their lifestyle are the main factors.
The problem must be understood holistically; linking with the society, the present economy and politics of the country. If the society is suffering due to divisive politics, hate-mongering, we can not expect our military men to be untouched with them. The farmers’ ongoing protests, veterans protest for OROP (One Rank One Pension) for more than 5 years, workers struggle to restore the lost Labor Laws, the enactment of CAA/NRC, the demonetization, the sudden and inefficient proclamation of Lockdown, etc. have an effect on our soldiers’ morale, peace of mind, and their ability to deliver in one of the most adverse conditions.
The solution has to be holistic. It must relate with the rest of the problems of the society. Few solutions could be, though temporary in nature, are Institutional Reforms, Peace in Field Environments, Officer, where all could interact with each other), Enabling Soldiers (Free them from the menial works at least, provide them proper food, clothe, equipment), Reducing Military Bureaucracy (Volumes could be written on it), Role of Senior Officers/Leadership as well as Junior Leadership, Government Support (Stop using the Army for political gains immediately, and issuing abusive statements as well, like “they are meant to die” or “how do they produce kids, when on the border”, etc.) or Country’s Leadership (Even opposition leaders must be part, stop treating the Army as a holy cow), give the soldiers their due.
Politicalizing the military is very dangerous, which our present government is unable to see, neither we can teach it.
Top military men are loving it, as for them it is great rehabilitation issue as individuals, but it is like a ticking bomb, more so when more than half the military men are suffering from stress, leading to pathological symptoms, suicide and other incidents. Remember, similar is the situation with the paramilitary forces and police, or who may be worse. And the said solutions are known to those who matter, but so what, who cares?
Gp Capt Krishna Kant