The body of Narendra R, the soldier who shot himself on duty in South Kashmir’s Anantnag arrived in Bengaluru late Monday. Despite his family having apprehensions that he committed suicide, his name will enter the Ministry of Defence’s record of soldiers who committed suicide.
According to MoD data for the period January 1, 2014 to March 31, 2017, at least one defence personnel from the three wings of the armed forces has committed suicide every three days, and most from the army.
In the 1,185 days, 348 defence personnel have killed themselves on duty, particularly those deployed for longer periods in terror-hit J&K or the insurgency-affected northeast.
The MoD, however, says that most of the suicides occur due to personal reasons, including land disputes back home. The complaint that civil authorities show nothing but apathy to grievances of those in the uniform or their families keeps recurring every time an expert is consulted.
Notwithstanding the fact that some of these reasons are true, a colonel who has served multiple tenures in the forward areas on the western front says:
“Long tenures at these stations take a toll on the mental and physical health of a personnel.Training and the pride of serving the nation keeps us going, but sometimes it gets difficult.”
Another officer says that if the personnel is preoccupied with problems back home then it becomes more difficult to cope with the strenuous conditions in these locations.
On its part, the MoD says it has been investing in creating a better environment for defence personnel and that it has trained a large number of officers to counsel those in distress. Yet, it doesn’t seem enough.
Among the three services, the army is the worst affected with 276 of the 348 soldiers who committed suicide, nearly 80%, belonging to it. Navy reported the least (12).