| Restless ranks
New Delhi, Sept. 9: They are prone to kill themselves ' or go berserk and shoot others ' in a fit of rage or depression. Yet they are allowed, gun in hand, to get closer to Presidents and Prime Ministers than anybody else.
From now on, central security forces personnel will have to undergo psychological evaluation every month before and during deployment at sensitive locations, such as the Rashtrapati Bhavan or Parliament.
The home ministry order comes after a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) constable gunned down his senior at Union minister Dayanidhi Maran’s residence and a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawan killed himself while on duty at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The central police organisations (CPOs) have been asked also to remove personnel of doubtful integrity from vital spots.
Since 2001, the CRPF has witnessed 107 suicides on duty and lost 39 men to shootings involving personnel. The Border Security Force (BSF) has recorded 43 suicides since 2004.
A 2001 survey by the CRPF’s operations branch had found that suicides and shootings are carried out mainly by constables ' especially the younger ones (within 10 years of joining).
A senior BSF officer said these will not stop until work pressure is brought down and the men are given enough rest and relief.
“Paramilitary personnel’s lives are harder than soldiers’. Unlike armymen, our boys have to be on duty for 16 to 18 hours every day. They live in tents without basic facilities for years together; they eat poor food; they do not even get co-operation from the state governments,” he said.
A senior CRPF officer, too, said it is important that facilities are brought on a par with those enjoyed by the army.
“After being posted for a year, or at best two years, in insurgency-prone areas, armymen get comfortable postings. But that is not so with our boys. Once removed from Jammu and Kashmir, they have to go to Naxalite-hit states and from there to the Northeast. There is no respite.”
A worried home ministry is looking into the findings of a study on stress suffered by the paramilitary forces.
The study says that insensitive seniors, lack of facilities (including housing), quick rotation of duties and negative media coverage are among the reasons why personnel are so stressed out.
Others include the poor medical cover for their families from whom they are separated for long periods, lack of counselling and motivation and whimsical transfers. The study notes that drinking and drug abuse has increased among the jawans.
The study, commissioned by the home ministry in April 2003, has been done jointly by the Shriram Centre for Industrial Relations and the Human Resources and Bureau of Police Research and Development.