Hit by an alarming rise in suicides by its personnel, the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has decided to counsel troopers and their wives together on ways to reduce stress.
"We are introducing a new project, 'Sanjeevani', under which the wives of jawans (troopers) will get training along with their husbands. The initiative aims to minimise the rising number of suicide cases among the force personnel," CRPF director general S.I.S. Ahmed said.
"The wives are included in the training as they also suffer huge mental trauma when their husbands are away on the battle front. Stress levels among them remain very high, which sometimes result in making their husband more anxious," Ahmed told IANS.
In the CRPF, 37 suicide cases have been reported so far this year, compared to 30 in 2006 and 19 in 2005. Ahmed said the new training programme would begin in Chhattisgarh, the state badly affected by Maoist violence, as the stress levels among the personnel deployed there were much higher than among those deployed in other states.
The CRPF, which is responsible for maintaining security, has 201 battalions with 260,000 troopers and officials. The force has deployed 72 battalions, around 40 percent of the force, to quell insurgency and maintain law and order in Jammu and Kashmir, while over 32 battalions are in Maoist-affected states -- Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa.
"We have 10 battalions in Chhattisgarh. Two jawans from there will be picked up on recommendation and given training along with their wives for eight days. During this intensive programme they will be given counselling and taught stress busting exercises," Ahmed added.
"The project will be extended if it yields desired results." The root cause of suicides and shootouts among the security forces are long duty hours, remaining disconnected from families, and not getting leave -- all of which lead to high levels of stress, a senior official said.
Most security personnel get a month's leave every year. But they are not always able to avail themselves of it. The weekly breaks are not of much use either and the troopers are often cooped up in their camps. "We have 201 battalions and each is deployed and operational on the ground. We don't have any reserve battalion, so the stress level is bound to increase," Ahmed said.
At times the personnel don't even get short leave when they need it. They are expected to maintain discipline all the time. All this leads to bottled-up tension that can prove dangerous, an officer explained. Schizophrenia, alcohol dependence and neurotic depression are among the causes of suicide.
Earlier this month, addressing a CRPF Wives' Welfare Association meeting, the prime minister's wife, Gursharan Kaur, had asked the security forces to identify the causes of stress and apply remedies to reduce stress levels.
"Security personnel, like other members of society, are battling stress and need the help of the family and their organisations to overcome it," she had said at the opening ceremony of the annual welfare exhibition organised by the CRPF.
"Security forces should identify the causes and apply remedies to reduce stress among their personnel," Kaur added.