New Delhi: The Border Security Force (BSF), that guards India's frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh, has initiated a maiden research project to analyse various triggers behind suicides by its troops and to formulate an action plan to reduce these instances. The country's largest border guarding force has also decided to introduce a wellness quotient assessment test in the about 2.5 lakh personnel-strong paramilitary after a pilot project launched on the subject last year was found to be successful.
BSF Director General (DG) K K Sharma told PTI in an interview that the issue of suicides in the force has been "recognised" as a priority area of work and a number of steps are being taken to check and reduce them. "A research is being conducted on?suicides that took place in the BSF during the last 5 years. It will go into the reasons as to why such an instance took place and if there is any common factor," the DG said.
He added that a study in this context has already been completed and the final outcomes of all these exercises will be implemented as a policy measure in the force, that guards two of the most important Indian frontiers with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
As per official data, a total of 173 BSF personnel have committed suicide in the last five years while 11 such deaths have happened this year. These figures are much more than operational deaths in the line of duty, that took place during the same period.
The jawans of the force are deployed for long stints in inhospitable and harsh climate areas along the Indo-Pak and Indo-Bangla borders, where they cannot keep their families for years together.
The BSF chief also informed that the pilot project of the wellness quotient assessment test, introduced last year, has been successful and it will now be linked to the annual medical test of jawans and officers.
"The aim of the project was to detect early traits and trends. Out?of a few thousand people who were examined (during the pilot project), hardly a dozen have been identified as those who are high-risk prone. Once a person has been identified who is under tremendous stress or depression, then we don't give them any duty with arms as they may harm themselves or someone else."
"Secondly, that person is counselled and if they need medication then they are sent to a trained psychiatrist," the DG said.
In continuation to this, he added, a directive has also been issued to "tighten" the procedure of the officer-jawan interaction. "It was seen that this drill had become routine. Now, it is insisted upon that you interact and spend some time with the personnel under your command, especially when they return from leave.
"We found that in 80 per cent suicide cases, it happened soon after the person had come back from leave and sometimes the extreme step was taken in a span of the next 7-10 days. "This meant that there is some domestic issue that is playing on the person's mind and when he is alone on duty he takes the extreme step. This is one common factor," Sharma, a Rajasthan cadre 1982-batch IPS officer, said.
He added that about 50 per cent of personnel, who took the extreme step, were unmarried. "We are taking a holistic view on this subject," Sharma said.