Resistance to change or rigidity of thought? Can’t say. Can’t fathom. And it is tiring.
The forces can opt to keep their eyes closed, but psychiatric ailments and related incidents such as suicides and fratricides are on the rise and of course now in the public eye.
With growing involvement of the security forces in operations all over, not just the defence services but the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) are also facing a steady rise in psychiatric and behavioural disorders.
But what is worth condemning and also a cause of worry is the casual dismissal of such incidents on the grounds of being ‘domestic issues’ and bizarre pretexts such as the growing use of mobile phones and improved lines of communication.
Let us tackle the ‘domestic issues’ front first. When a person is invalided out or released in a low medical category on account of a psychiatric disorder, military medical boards are quick to term such disabilities as ‘constitutional disorders’ and as emanating from domestic issues and hence ‘neither attributable to, nor aggravated by military service’ thereby denying the person and his family all service benefits including pension.
Now please tell me, even if a ‘domestic issue’ is taken as the source of a disability or disorder, can it not have a link with military service? Well, in most of the cases it would. Most of the year, a member of a security force remains away from his (or her) family in a regimented environment. Domestic issues such as studies of children, safety of family, property disputes, administrative issues or even minor irritants etc are bound to aggravate the psychiatric condition of a person for the simple reason that being away from the family he feels helpless, and coupled with this is the very true fact of an insensitive civil administration and the dipping scale of respect for the profession of arms.
Compare with him a person with ‘domestic issues’ who is a civil employee who stays with his family and is there for them every single minute of their lives. Domestic issues would not affect a civilian employee living with his family but surely would affect a member of a security force who is not there with them, who is not there for them. An encroachment of a person’s house back in his village is definitely a ‘domestic issue’ but his not being there to effectively sort it out is definitely not a ‘domestic issue’ and is linked with military service. The non-issuance of a domicile certificate for a jawan’s child for purposes of admission in an educational institution definitely is a personal problem, but his not being able to resolve it since he is ‘stateless’ or since he is unable to pursue his remedies properly is definitely related to the rigours of military service and its exigencies. The internal mechanism to cope up with such situations would unquestionably be more fickle in the case of members of the uniformed community. So how is it that domestic issues would not have a role to play in aggravating psychiatric or behavioural disorders? If life in the forces cannot be made stress-free, the least that the medical establishment can do is to make it a rule, rather than an exception, to favourably view such disorders for declaration of ‘aggravation due to military service’ in order to at least grant benefits to the person if he is released from service in such a condition. But no, our eyes are closed and so is our mind! I would again pray that one day the office of the Director General Armed Forces Medical Services wakes up and embraces medical science rather than outdated practices and principles of mathematics.
Senior officers also regularly blame mobile phones for many ills facing the Indian military. Now tell me, do we want our troops to live in the past without any lines of communication? Do we want our youth joining the services to remain backward while their counterparts continue to enjoy the joys of technology? Would we be able to attract the correct talent if we consider improved lines of communication a bane? The answer would be in the negative. Does someone even realise that perhaps mobile telephony may actually be reducing stress levels of troops by helping them keep in touch with their families and reducing ancillary worries? No please, ignorance is not bliss! Not in this time and age. A simple reassuring call that things are alright back home could soothe nerves and not the opposite as is being widely believed. Cuts both ways but the benefits of mobile telephones outweigh the shortcomings. Instead of working on a regressive thought-process, the leadership may well be advised to find ways and means within the four corners of the times we live in. To top it all, there are no clinical psychologists in situations where they are required. Even the number of psychiatrists is pretty low. To further add to the injury, the system is anti-disabled from all sides with the main thrust of litigation of the defence services being against their own disabled soldiers.
While most armies of democracies move towards recognising and accepting the problem of rising stress levels and thereby addressing it, we on the other hand have our eyes shut and continue to proclaim that fauj is one of most stress free occupations in the world. Keep sleeping.
Yes, blame it everywhere but on your own house!