Breakdown of Indian Army`s tradition ?

Discussion in 'Indian Army' started by Daredevil, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

    Apr 5, 2009
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    Breaking down in Army

    Breaking down

    in New Delhi

    According to the Ministry of Defence, the Indian Army is losing more soldiers to suicides and fratricides than to militancy-related incidents.

    ON August 17, K. Muthu, a jawan from a military engineer regiment, climbed a 200-foot-high telephone tower near the New Delhi railway station and threatened to jump if an attempt was made to force him down. He wanted to speak to Defence Minister A.K. Antony and tell him about the pathetic working conditions of soldiers in the Indian Army. His own complaint was that he had been ill-treated by his senior officers, not paid salary for the past eight months, denied leave, and transferred frequently. He remained atop the tower for five days despite the best efforts of senior officers, including the Vice Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. Gen. S.K. Singh. He could only be brought down after he fainted on August 21. He is now recuperating at Base Hospital in Delhi Cantonment. Not many in the past have been so lucky.

    Arun V., a soldier posted at a military camp of 16th Light Cavalry in the border district of Samba in Jammu and Kashmir, shot himself with his service rifle on the morning of August 8 inside the camp. His suicide was attributed to simmering tension between the officers and jawans of the camp. When the news of his suicide spread, jawans went on the rampage, attacking officers, who had to lock themselves inside their quarters to save themselves. Two Army units had to be rushed to the camp to control the situation and rescue the officers, who were shifted to various messes outside the camp. The situation there continues to be tense, and an inquiry is on.

    Yet another serious case of indiscipline by soldiers, again attributed to tension with senior officers, occurred in an artillery regiment at Nyoma in Ladakh in May, when officers and jawans violently clashed with each other following an altercation. The clash left the unit commanding officer, two majors and two jawans seriously injured. An inquiry is under way in this case also.

    Chilling reality

    These are not isolated incidents. Something seems to be seriously wrong with the mental health of members of the 1.13-million-strong Indian Army. Otherwise highly motivated soldiers, who are trained to handle pressure, are breaking down and either taking their own lives or attacking their officers, at times even killing them. The chilling reality, according to the figures put out by officials of the Ministry of Defence, is that the Army is losing more soldiers to suicides and fratricides than to militancy-related incidents. Every third day, a soldier kills himself.

    DIPR study

    The suicide rate in the Army is shocking, averaging over 100 every year since 2003, according to the Defence Minister. In a statement he made in Parliament on August 8, Antony said 1,018 soldiers had committed suicide since 2003, with the yearly toll regularly going over 100. He said fratricide had also become a regular phenomenon in the Army. He informed the House that according to a study done by the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), an institute of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), perceived humiliation and harassment at the hands of their superiors, over and above occupational and family causes, was stressing soldiers so much that they were either killing themselves or taking the lives of their fellow soldiers or officers.

    According to the 31st report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, from 2007 to 2010, 208 soldiers lost their lives in action against militants, while 368 killed themselves, and another 15 to 30 soldiers tried to kill themselves but failed.

    The committee expressed serious concern at the fact that enhanced stress, leading to psychological imbalance, had emerged as a major killer in the Indian Army, much more dangerous than any counter-insurgency or militant threat. But it also expressed concern that the Army was still loath to talk about it, that the studies carried out by the DIPR or other institutions were kept “secret”, and that recommendations to the government remained on paper most of the time. “What is the harm if such reports are made public and debated openly? This will give soldiers at least some solace that people are concerned about their problems and care enough to discuss solutions,” Satpal Maharaj, Chairman of the committee, said. Repeated efforts by Frontline to get the DIPR to comment on the issue were futile.

    “The most unfortunate part of this problem is that there is no transparent debate, the tendency mostly is to keep such debate cloaked in secrecy or brush it under the carpet, at both the Army and government levels,” said Col. K.C. Dixit, a Fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses, who authored an extensive study on the issue of stress in the Army, which was published by the IDSA.

    Col. Dixit, talking to Frontline, said soldiers were able to handle professional hardships, tough working conditions, poor living facilities, even the long separation from their families if they believed that their seniors in the forces cared enough; that the civil administration outside was concerned enough to try and find solutions to the problems they faced; that the government was attentive to their pleas; that their families were well taken care of in their absence; and that their future was secure once they left the Army. “But all this is lacking. At the fag end of their career, when it is time to walk out, they feel cheated,” he said.

    “A young man joins the Army with a sense of pride and honour, but when he goes back to society, that pride and honour is not reflected in the way civil society treats him. Gradually, a sense of despondency builds up, and when this gets combined with issues relating to occupational hardships or humiliation at the hands of seniors, it acts as a trigger,” he said, adding, “Things are not that rosy in the Army.” His extensive study, based on available literature, reports and interactions and surveys during field trips, has ample evidence of that.

    Main factors

    The following are listed in the study as the main factors causing stress:

    1. Lack of responsiveness of the civil administration, leading to soldiers feeling a sense of helplessness when they try to solve problems when they visit their homes on routine leave.

    2. Poor interpersonal relationship between officers and jawans, which at times translates into humiliation at the hands of seniors.

    3. Non-realisation of personal career ambitions, especially of those who spend most of their working life on field assignments, which are mostly tougher than peace station postings.

    4. Non-availability of a quick appellate mechanism, leading to a large number of service-related matters remaining pending for a long time.

    5. Social apathy.

    6. Retirement blues. Most of the workforce retires comparatively young when soldiers are still in fighting fit condition, but service rules are such that they have to go even though there are few opportunities available for re-employment outside the Army.

    7. Tough working conditions.

    8. Domestic problems.

    9. Lack of adequate counselling and treatment.

    According to Col. Dixit, what has actually worsened the situation is that over the years the system within the Army, too, has degraded, and the disparity in the pay and perks of soldiers vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts only adds to the problem, with the bureaucracy just not doing anything about it. “The mindset within the bureaucracy has to change if matters are to improve,” he said. This was mentioned in the report of the Parliamentary Committee as well, which rued the fact that the government just sat on the recommendations forwarded by the committee.

    Extensive interaction with serving Army officers, none of whom wanted to be named, for obvious reasons, also brings out the fact that there is a growing tendency of one-upmanship within the Army, and this takes its toll on the mental health of officers and jawans. Whenever there is a change at the top, those down the line pay the price on the basis of their perceived affiliations. The starkest example of this is the recent change in the office of the Chief of the Army Staff. There is an allegation that those perceived to be loyal to the previous chief have been shunted out to insignificant posts. One case is that of an officer who was heading the Technical Support Division, a wing of military intelligence which was created by Gen. V.K. Singh, and was reporting directly to him. This unit had come under a cloud during the general’s tenure for the infamous phone-tapping incident in the Ministry of Defence. This division was dismantled the division, and its head has alleged harassment.

    Shortage of officers

    Another factor that could be instrumental in adding to the stress level is the acute shortage of officers. According to the 2009 figures of the Ministry of Defence, there was a deficiency of some 14,300 officers in the three services, with the Army being the worst affected. It was short of 11,387 officers, the Navy of 1,512 officers and the Air Force of 1,400 officers. According to senior Army officials, this shortage was leading to greater stress among junior and middle-level officers because they had to perform multi-level functions, which left them with little time for interpersonal interactions with the personnel under their command. When this is added to hostile working conditions such as inhospitable terrain, climate and environment, especially in insurgency-affected areas, it becomes a potentially explosive situation, needing only a little spark to cause an outburst, as was witnessed in Samba and Nyoma. It is not clear what remedial action the Army or the Defence Ministry is taking in this regard. Neither answered queries relating to this.

    The Army, however, is candid about admitting that stress has indeed emerged as an “issue” in recent times. “Yes, we are aware that rising stress level has emerged as an issue, but in most cases it is domestic problems, and not the professional situation, which is the main factor. The service environment only provides the trigger. But we have evolved systemic measures to deal with this. In cases where seniors are found to be instrumental in adding to the stress, action has been taken,” said the Army spokesman. These systemic measures, he said, included a comprehensive mental health programme, which was started by the Army in 2000-01. Twenty-two psychiatric treatment centres have since been established, which, besides providing mental health services, train trainers. So far over 950 of them have been trained. Over 1,000 religious teachers employed by the Army also provide counselling services to personnel.

    But it is debatable whether the facilities available are enough for a force that has a strength of 1.13 million. Besides, counselling centres and staff are located at base hospitals, not in the field areas where they are actually required. So their efficacy remains doubtful. Muthu’s case is an example. Before being posted to Delhi, he was in Bangalore, where he had psychological problems and was treated for a short while. Obviously, that treatment did not help.

    “Treatment should be the last resort. Actual effort should be to improve the system, both within and outside, so that it does not come to the point where an educated, highly trained, motivated young man, who is willing to lay down his life for his country, is reduced to a bundle of rattled nerves,” said a senior officer. Is anyone listening?
  3. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

    May 26, 2010
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    Re: Breaking down in Army

    Public stunt..

    This cant go more stupid than this or does it..
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

    Apr 17, 2009
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    Re: Breaking down in Army

    Too much of time left in their hands to brood.

    Populist 'welfare' measures are making all soft.

    Officers are on the move from unit to course, to Temp Duty, to cadres, to Cs of I, Station duties, Boards of Officers and so on.

    They have very little contact with the troops they command because they are on these duties.

    Therefore, the bonding is low. Hence, no camaraderie.

    Then there is unbridled ambition where officers think they are born Napoleons and hence have to excel as individual and hence, not as a team. The silver medalist, Vijay Kumar, though not an officer, embodies this psychology - he wants promotions but does not care that such a demand would skew the promotion policy of the very Army that made his what he is! And then he demands his promotion or he will leave the Army!!!!!

    What happens? Instead of showing him the door, the Chief and tne Army embraces him and stoops to meet the man's demand! Populism leading to encouragement to others to be as indisciplined as Vijay Kumar!

    Perceived humiliation would have been much more in the older days.

    However, it was taken in one's stride because there was bonding and there was unit and Regt spirit. If troops and officers are constantly on the move for other duties than professional activities, then there is no cohesiveness or the feeling of oneness. Whatever spirit that is seen is merely cosmetic and for the gallery.

    There is nothing like 'occupational' causes. The Army was never a bed of roses and no activity that the Army does can be predicted and made a standard. For instance, the Army is not trained to pull children out of wells, when that is the job of Govt agencies. But then, it has to be done. None can say he won't do it because that is not a part of Army's laid down charter of duties.

    Domestic issues is indeed a huge problem. The Govt agencies just don't bother and do not realise that a soldier or an officer has just that much of time on leave to address issues and once that is over, there is no chance of getting the task in hand till the next year. The Govt has to address this issue in all earnest and ensure that it is followed.
    W.G.Ewald likes this.
  5. Oracle

    Oracle New Member

    Mar 31, 2010
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    Bangalore, India
    Is the Indian Army feeling the heat of being in perpetual operations? Are our soldiers' stress levels peaking dangerously? Making them prone to acts of indiscriminate violence? asks Nitin Gokhale.

    Is the famed officer-men relationship in the Indian Army on the verge of a breakdown? How should one read recent incidents of indiscipline, rebellion/revolt, physical scuffles and suicides in the Army?

    If you ask the top brass, most tend to brush aside the incidents as aberrations. Army Chief General Bikram Singh had in fact asserted that the suicide in an armoured unit in Samba and the subsequent fracas between officers and men was not related.

    On Monday, September 3, Defence Minister A K Antony contradicted the army chief's assertion. In a written answer to the Lok Sabha, Antony said: 'The incident of suicide by an army personnel on 8th August 2012 in the Samba sector of Jammu and Kashmir led to unrest.'

    On the face of it, the development is a major worry since absolute trust between officers and men in the Indian Army is the bedrock on which the combat units are built.

    Indeed, when a former vice-chief of the army Staff, Lieutenant General Vijay Oberoi also says it's a matter of concern, it's time to take note.

    In a recent article General Oberoi says: 'Three incidents of collective indiscipline by jawans in the last few months, reflecting a breakdown in the traditionally close officer-man relationship, are a cause for concern, especially as all three of them are related to combat units, where a stable and healthy officer-man relationship is an article of faith.'

    And yet, some of the breathless commentary in the media attributing the breakdown to 'clash of class' between officers and men is born out of incomplete understanding of the working of the Indian Army.

    Yes, there is a problem. But the problem is an outcome of a combination of factors: Erosion in the soldiers' status in the society, prolonged deployment in monotonous and thankless counter-insurgency jobs, crippling shortage of officers' in combat units and ironically easier communication between families and soldiers!

    The Samba incident compels me to ask: What is it that drives a jawan to desperation? Is it just the tension of operating in the counter-insurgency? Or is there something more to it than meets the eye?

    There are no straight answers but figures available since 2003 clearly indicate that that the Indian Army is facing one of its biggest challenges in history. Consider the figures:

    • In 2003, 96 army men committed suicide.
    • In 2004, this number was exactly 100.
    • In 2005, 92 of them took their own lives.
    • In 2006, 131 army personnel committed suicide.
    • In 2007 and 2008 the recorded figures were 142 and 150 respectively.
    • Since then the numbers have come down, but still remain over 100.
    • 2009: 111; 2010: 130; 2011: 102.

    Given that India has an 11-lakh strong army, these numbers may not be huge but for a force that prides itself on its standards of training and discipline, it is certainly a matter of concern if not alarm.

    One can also point out the fact that in the American army this year alone the rate of suicide (till June 8) was one-a-day. That's hardly a consolation.

    Therefore, it's time to ask the question: Is the Indian Army feeling the heat of being in perpetual operations? Are our soldiers' stress levels peaking dangerously? Making them prone to acts of indiscriminate violence?

    There is no denying the fact that come summer, winter or rains, soldiers continue their daily patrols along the Line of Control in Kashmir. Every day and night at least a thousand foot patrols spread out in Jammu and Kashmir to try and corner terrorists. The job is risky and can even get monotonous. A bullet can come from anywhere any time. So one has to always be alert. But the chase is mostly futile. Nine out of ten times the patrols return empty-handed.

    After nearly 14 years of counter-terrorism in Kashmir, the army has got used to the apparent hardship of uninterrupted operations. The fear of the enemy, claims each man that I have talked to, is nominal. 'We have no tension in this respect (counter-terrorism, counter-insurgency), we had joined the army precisely for this kind of work,' is the constant refrain from soldiers.

    Officers say their biggest duty is to ensure that men are fully trained to face any situation in counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism.

    'A fully-trained soldier is a confident soldier and effective soldier,' commanding officers say whenever one meets them.

    But this practised auto-reply could cloak a very different reality.

    A psychiatric study by army doctors a couple of years ago on 'Evolving Medical Strategies for Low Intensity Conflicts' revealed the huge range of issues soldiers in such situations have to confront, contradictions between war and low intensity conflict situations and particularly the concepts of 'enemy', 'objective' and 'minimum force'. There are no clear-cut victories like in wars. Some other findings were:

    • In general war the nation looks upon the soldier as a saviour, but here he is at the receiving end of public hostility.
    • A hostile vernacular press keeps badgering the security forces, projecting them as perpetrators of oppression.
    • Continuous operations affect rest, sleep and body clocks, leading to mental and physical exhaustion.
    • Monotony, the lure of the number-game and low manning strength of units lead to over-use and fast burn-out.

    Leading psychiatrists also feel that there is disconnect between what a soldier is trained for and what he ends up doing in low-intensity conflicts.

    I remember that some years ago Dr Nimesh Desai, a psychiatrist, had told me: "There is a certain dissonance in what the soldier feels when he operates in low intensity conflict. He is trained for war, to go all out against an enemy but in insurgency, he is told to hold back. Plus there is no end in sight for such operations. It is the constant tension that gets him."

    Operating in a tension-ridden counter-insurgency environment does lead to certain stress among the jawans, but that is only one of the factors.

    The main worry are the problems back home -- land disputes -- tensions within the family, rising aspirations, lack of good pay and allowances, and also the falling standards of supervision from some officers, all these factors have led to major stress.

    Company commanders who lead field units in counter-insurgency situations also believe that tensions at home transmit themselves much quicker today. Since almost 80 per cent of India's foot soldiers come from rural and semi-urban areas, most of them have strong links with the land.

    For the ordinary soldier, the smallest patch of land back home is the most precious property. Again, I have frequently come across a common thread where soldiers say there is no tension in actual work of counter-insurgency. The main problem for the fauji comes from his domestic situation.

    Very often land gets encroached in his native village or there is a dispute over even the smallest of property. "There is always a tension. The police don't listen to us. My parents feel helpless, I become tense every time I go back home," I remember a soldier telling me in the Kashmir valley.

    One more common thread among soldiers from Rajasthan to UP, from Tamil Nadu to Haryana was how little respect they seem to command today in a society which devalues their work.

    As a former army commander had once pointed out: "You see he comes from a society where he compares himself with others and when he realises that he is at a disadvantage since acceptance wise, the kind of respect that his predecessors had is no longer there."

    Very often insensitive civil administrations create tensions.

    Senior officers point out that most suicide and fratricide cases take place after soldiers return from a spot of leave. The feeling of frustration can bring in helplessness which in turn leads to suicides and fratricide, it creates an impression that no one listens to the army. It is the system that sends the man in uniform into a depression.

    It is precisely this concern that had prompted Defence Minister A K Antony to write to all chief ministers some years ago asking them to sensitise district administrations in their states to the needs of the soldiers. State governments were asked to set up a mechanism at district and state levels to address soldiers' grievances.

    The harsh reality is that men in uniform no longer command the respect they did in the early years after Independence. Today, they have to fight for getting equivalence with officers of Group A central government services!

    And yet, the army must look within too.

    Soldiers these days are better educated and consequently better aware of their rights. This, coupled with falling standards of command and control among some of the undeserving officers who have risen to command units, is becoming a major cause for worry.

    An acute shortage of officers at the cutting edge level is the other big factor contributing to an increasing gap between soldiers and officers. Against an authorised strength of over 22 officers for a combat battalion, there are at best 8 or 9 officers available to the Commanding Officer these days.

    Very often young officers with less than two years of service are commanding companies! Even in the battalion headquarters, one officer ends up doing the job of three given the shortage. There is no time to interact with soldiers. In the old days, a game of football or hockey was the best way to get to know each other. Not any longer.

    Moreover, soldiers no longer accept a wrong or unjustified command blindly. The old attitudes among some of the COs, of lording over ORs and expecting them not to protest/revolt must change.

    It is ironic that while there is a shortage of over 12,000 officers in the army, the majority of staff postings are fully subscribed, but combat units have to do with bare minimum strength!

    While there is no single reason that can be cited as THE cause for suicides and recent standoffs that have happened in quick succession, the army leadership will have to take a hard look at the disturbing developments and come up with quick but effective solutions.

    Apart from increasing the intake of officers, the army leadership will have to take a conscious decision to post more officers in combat units and make do with shortages in the staff.

    Reportedly, the new Military Secretary, Lieutenant General Ata Hasnain, a compassionate soldier himself, has been tasked with formulating a new human resource policy for the army. One hopes, he comes up with innovative ideas to nix this new menace in the initial stage.

    Nitin Gokhale is the Security and Strategic Affairs Editor at NDTV.

  6. Kunal Biswas

    Kunal Biswas Member of the Year 2011 Moderator

    May 26, 2010
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    @Nitin Gokhale,

    1. You research about Indian army is from only 2003 ? Did IA formed in 2002 ? Such incident are common in all armies over the world but the measures taken are most effective in Indian army.

    2. Relation between officers and soldiers are fine, harsh reality is media hyping such incidents and giving wrong message to civilian population hence discouraging men from joining the army, We are not US army who will go and recruit convicts, This kind of immature move will back fire on civilian population and all this on you hands..

    3. For good reason see what and how you should publish news article and give some brains to you fellow comrades, Attention whoring at cost of National moral and national security is unacceptable..
    Ankit Purohit and Oracle like this.
  7. Ankit Purohit

    Ankit Purohit Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 20, 2012
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    This media is a Group of DOGS
  8. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

    Oct 16, 2010
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    Delhi, India, India
    Perhaps the media should be shown what other Armies around the world do in war and peace.
    That would fry their over judgmental heads into into a darker maturity, rather than this kind of journalism which clearly gives up who is having more of a harmonal disorder instead.

    W.G.Ewald likes this.

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