Diseases and accidents kill CAPF personnel more than bullets

Rebel fire is not the biggest threat to the lives of India’s paramilitary personnel deployed in the country’s insurgency-wracked regions.

Authorities have been ignoring issues like stress and health of its CAPF personnel

Authorities are ignoring issues like stress and health of CAPF personnel

Of the 2014 personnel of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) deployed in various zones of armed conflict, 32 percent were killed in road/rail accidents, while only 7 percent died in operations against militants, data provided by the Home Ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicated.

Data from specific conflict zones provides interesting insights into the difficult conditions in which India’s paramilitary personnel work. Sample this.

More CAPF personnel fell prey to malaria and heart attacks than to Maoist attacks in 2014.  While 50 paramilitary personnel were killed in Maoist attacks in the dense jungles of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, 95 died due to various diseases, including malaria (27) and heart attack (35).

Malaria epidemics are common in Chhattisgarh, the centre of the Maoist conflict. It is the biggest killer of children in the state.

For CRPF and other forces, operating in the interior jungles, malaria poses an enormous threat. They are forced to ignore early symptoms as they are not granted leave easily.

In the circumstances, it is only when their condition becomes serious that they can seek help. By then, it is too late.

The NCRB data shows that things are looking up somewhat for the armed forces battling militancy in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). Not a single operation-related death was reported from this strife-torn state in 2014.

However, stress is proving to be a giant killer here. Of the 12 cases of fratricide reported across India, eight (66.7 percent) were from J&K. The state accounted for 10 percent of the 175 suicides among paramilitary personnel country-wide.

The vulnerability of women personnel to stress is underscored by the fact that although they constitute just 2 percent of the paramilitary forces, they accounted for 40 percent of the suicides, although women paramilitary personnel are not deployed in combat.

Like the paramilitary forces, India’s armed forces too battle immense pressure at work.

Problems back home, especially festering land disputes, are an important source of tension for soldiers hailing from rural areas. Rarely are they allowed to take time off from work, visit home or relax.

The result is that increasingly soldiers are turning their guns on themselves or their colleagues. This is a matter of serious concern.

The 1.2 million-strong Indian army is the world’s third largest and widely looked upon as a professional force. Its soldiers are highly motivated and trained to cope with pressure. Why then are they unable to stand the tension? What is the reason behind the growing number of brawls, protests and fratricidal killings among the armed forces?

Jobs in the military and paramilitary forces are stressful the world over. Handling stress is part of the job description. What makes the tension unbearable for India’s military and paramilitary forces is that they are deployed in insurgency-wracked regions for prolonged periods with few breaks or recreational options.

Many of the country’s 106 districts that are most affected by the Maoist conflict are the worst when it comes to problems like malnutrition, poor sanitation, and lack of public health facilities.

In Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district, for instance, the quality of health facilities available for the general public is abysmal. It is to the same government hospitals and health centres that paramilitary personnel stricken with malaria are rushed.

So poor are the facilities and cleanliness in these hospitals that people die from treatable illnesses like diarrhea. The chances of soldiers surviving complex diseases like malaria, where viruses are reportedly mutating into virulent strains, are rather remote.

India’s security experts often call for supply of more sophisticated weaponry to security forces deployed in the country’s conflict zones. They are poorly armed compared with the insurgents, they point out.

While this is true, their living and operating conditions need more urgent attention.

Home Ministry authorities have been putting issues like stress and health of its CAPF personnel on the back burner for far too long. The NCRB data should force them to rethink their priorities. Neglect of issues of basic concern to the paramilitary personnel is affecting their morale too.

Dr. Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore, India

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  • Maria

    “…their living and operating conditions need more urgent attention.”__Hmm, disagree with that; I much prefer for the Indian Army to never fix it’s problems!

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Article states “The 1.2 million-strong Indian army is the world’s third largest and widely looked upon as a professional force.”
    I disagree with that conclusion of the Indian army. It is due to the heavy hand of the Indian army that many Kashmiri Muslims have died, same can be stated of the militant (Christian) separatists in India’s north Eastern states. Both separatists and civilians have been killed. These numbers are large.
    I would take this moment to make a similar comparison to the US military. Though our military is considered one of the most professional in the world. the “collateral damage’ inflicted on civilians from wars such as the Vietnam war to the wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan have stated that the US military (including our air force) have used excessive force against the civilian populations of the nations stated above. India’s military has to bear the same responsibility or the problems New Delhi is trying to solve will never go away.

  • Maria

    #1) Officially, India has “Freedom of Religion”, but, the reality is that India violates it’s (phoney) moral high ground: Modi himself blamed Muslims when a train of Hindu pilgrims caught fire, which killed 59 Hindus, WITHOUT any evidence that Muslims were behind it, paraded the dead Hindus in the streets to stoke anti-muslim violence, even Modi’s cabinet member was implicated in the murder of Muslims, and Modi himself has never been repentful: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/07/narendra-modi-massacre-next-prime-minister-india , And, even the Bush administration banned Modi from traveling to the USA since 2005 for “particularly severe violations of religions freedom”: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-29392744

    #2) As India is a “Democracy”, it speaks volumes about India (which is ~80% Hindu) that it elects someone who has promoted genocide…God DAMN Modi, God DAMN India.

    #3) As India’s Human-rights hypocrisy has been exposed, it becomes necessary to investigate if Indian-Army abuses in the Nagaland region against Christians isn’t also a violation of Human Rights.

    #4) It also speaks volumes about the USA that it has forgiven Modi for genocide, and is even eager for closer ties with India. The USA *spits* in the face of Muslims world wide, and the American people themselves (honestly) couldn’t care less!!

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    Got your comment.
    I agree on many points
    -Under Atal Vajpayee the Babri Mosque was demolished by RSS cadres in order to build the Rama Temple, claiming that this mosque stood on that site where Lord Rama was born. They could have dismantled the mosque and moved it. They did not.That too was the BJP. and a former RSS member killed the Mahatma.
    -I already wrote of Indira Gandhi’s heavy hand against the Sikh community. That was not needed. the schism she created has widened.
    -Indira also helped in the partition of Pakistan. That too was not needed. India had the power to work with East and West Pakistan to resolve their differences. Indira used the problems between Karachi and East Pakistan to divide a Sovereign nation. In that sense it was worse than the creation of India (and Pakistan) that led to the end of the British Empire.
    -The pogrom on the Gujarati Muslims was horrendous for Modi waited the allotted 2 days before calling in the military. He transferred police who wanted to help.
    -It was the Obama administration that dropped the ban. Not the people of America who are sick and tired of this administration.