By Ankit Varma:
“The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.”
Violence itself has become synonymous with stress and trauma. Battle fields and warfare are the most distressful circumstances human beings endure. Separation from family, constant encounters with death and injury, challenging terrains and constant fear of death are enough to disturb the mental stability of the fittest. There have been many cases of suicide and fratricide in the armed forces. Last month, Defense Minister A K Antony had informed the Rajya Sabha that 1,426 personnel died due to suicides and fratricides since 2000.
There have many been various reasons that have been attributed to the growing number of suicides in the armed forces. Although the country has not witnessed any major war in a long time, reports suggest that stress is the major reason for the rising numbers. The other reasons are lack of leave and challenging service conditions also contribute to the rising suicide cases. Bossiness and rudeness of senior officers is also an area of concern.
The recent Ladakh troop revolt underlines Army class tensions. Although it was termed as a case of indiscipline and not revolt, incidents like these de-motivate the lower rank officers. Army has announced that it was considering doing away with the colonial institution of sahayak, trained officers who serve as valet. Such practices seriously undermine the unity of the forces and create a class divide not acceptable in the society.
But even the officers of the army are not shielded form the harsh terrains and other psychological pressures. Siachen, the highest battle-field in the world sees minimum temperatures of minus 50 degrees. Also avalanches and heavy snowfall are challenges which the troops face on a daily basis. The elements of nature are more capable of destruction than the enemy. Recently Pakistan lost 125 soldiers to an avalanche in the region. The Indian army is also subjected to similar vulnerabilities. Although border skirmishes are infrequent, it is the constant threat that takes a toll on metal fitness.
According to DRDO’s head of Research and Development Dr W Selvamurthy, teachers from National Institute of Yoga have been asked to train the soldiers. Also a number of councilors and stress management programs have been introduced. DRDO will take into consideration attributes like attitude, mental soundness, and intellectual capabilities to mitigate all kinds of dangers, etc before positioning.