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The Number of Suicide Cases Has Come Down; Incorrect USI Report — Army Chief Gen Naravane

Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane said he was hopeful that through dialogue under the established mechanism, India and China will be able to reach an agreement to resolve the eastern Ladakh standoff. But he also emphatically maintained that such an agreement for disengagement and de-escalation must be based on an approach of mutual and equal security. Chief rebuked the recent report by a Think tank, citing insufficient sample base of findings among the world's largest 13 lakh strong Indian Army. He also refers to incorrect data in the report 'soldiers under pressure’.

Photo Credit : Manish Jha

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Indian Army Chief

Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane said he was hopeful that through dialogue under the established mechanism, India and China will be able to reach an agreement to resolve the eastern Ladakh standoff. But he also emphatically maintained that said such an agreement for disengagement and de-escalation must be based on an approach of mutual and equal security.
 

Army Chief was Addressing a press conference ahead of the Army Day in New Delhi. In an open session, Army Chief touched upon many crucial issues country is facing, including the continuing standoff with China at LAC in Ladakh and on the internal security. Gen Naravane said the operational preparedness of the Indian armed forces has been of very high level and they will continue to hold onto their ground.

We are prepared to hold our ground as long it takes to achieve our national goals and objectives.”

With Heavy deployment of troops in various mountainous locations in eastern Ladakh in sub-zero temperatures, the Indian Army is in a high state of combat readiness. So far eighth round of talks between the Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have taken place but failed to resolve the standoff. They agreed to have another round of meeting. Chief said ninth round of talks are expected.

The eighth and last round of military talks between the two sides had taken place on November 6 during which both sides broadly discussed disengagement of troops from specific friction points.
 

Commenting on the status quo of the conflict in the higher altitude area around Pangong Tso spanning eastern Ladakh at an elevation of 4,225 m, Chief said: “We have gone in winter posturing and we are left all along the boundary. We are hoping for a peaceful solution but we are ready to meet any eventuality. All logistics (are) taken care of,” he added.

Besides, India and China held another round of diplomatic talks under the framework of Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) on India-China border affairs. This round was held with a specific agenda of exploring ways to implement a five-point agreement reached between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at a meeting in Moscow on September 10 on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) conclave.
 
Talking about increasing security challenges at the Line of Actual Control, the Chief of Army Staff said a need was felt about "rebalancing" of troops along the northern borders, adding "that is what we have put in place now." Gen Naravane said there was no reduction in deployment of troops by both India and China in eastern Ladakh. 

Indian Army on Stress and Suicides based on USI report

In light of recent findings-- a study-- published by the tri-services think tank United Service Institution of India (USI), this correspondent raised question on addressing such gaps and if the data published about is correct?

Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane replied: “You asked about the stress in army and the recent report which I have read. I would like to convey that Report is based on the sample size which comprises of only 400 participants. If such study to be conducted to achieve accuracy at 99% then there must be a larger sample base of about 19000. And it must be based on 7000 to 8000 sample base to achieve 95% of accuracy. So [based on such study of only 400 sample], I cannot refer to such conclusion to gauge the level of stress. 

He further added: “Stress could be at various levels. We take all those factors at consideration and keep engaging with Company Commander. We keep engaging for solutions. I would also like to convey that the number of suicides has in fact gone down. Our data-- facts & figure-- show the decreasing rates rather the increasing as the study indicates which you mentioned [USI Study].

Asked if the is the data mentioned in the USI report is correct that 100 Jawans and across other ranks commit suicide each year?

Army Chief replied: “Totally incorrect.”

While the USI study report on 'soldiers under pressure’ raised big debate within the Forces, which was taken down later, Army Chief accepted the stress at various level. Report which was published a few days ago on the think tank’s site but later it was quickly taken out of the website on 8 January. Report highlights that over 1,100 cases of suicide among various ranks have been committed since 2010 and that makes it 100 suicide cases per year due to ‘various stress’ related problem. Report also reasons the gaps in addressing such issues as-- delay and denial of leaves, excessive engagement, humiliation by seniors, lack of dignity, zero error syndrome, frequent dislocations, unreasonable restrictions on the use of mobile phones, poor quality of ration and conflicting management issue and existing addressal mechanism among the senior, junior officers and Jawans.

While Indian Army is one of the biggest military institutions in the world with 13 million strong and maintains the credible record of standards, discipline and fairness among its ranks, such mental health issues at the bottom level of command keep surfacing. Though some of raison d’etre for such malaise are well understood and documented in terms of long deployment at harsh terrain and environment along the vast stretch of LOC, LAC and other conflict zone across the Indian subcontinent, the addressal mechanism calls for a review.

As it brings back the recent case of a 40-year-old Army jawan who ended his life in the barracks of Gorkha Rifles. On preliminary enquiry, as reported by senior police office, it was found that the jawan was suffering from acute lower back pain and high blood pressure. Address it to save it.