MHA creates taskforce to prevent suicides by CAPF troops

NEW DELHI, Dec 1: The Union Home Ministry has set up a taskforce comprising its senior-most officers for the prevention of suicide by central paramilitary forces personnel who render internal security duties in some of the most challenging conditions and arduous terrains.
The taskforce is headed by CRPF Director General Kuldiep Singh, while a special or additional DG of the BSF, ITBP, CISF, SSB and Assam Rifles will serve as members.
The taskforce will draw a plan to “identify relevant risk factors and protective factors at the individual level; look at the existing and futuristic protective factors and study prevention strategies and also conduct research and interact with domain experts”, according to the terms of reference, accessed by PTI,
Government data updated till August shows 680 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) or central paramilitary forces personnel died by suicide in the last six years.
According to officials, most times the issues that lead to stress and instances of suicide among the troops are related to problems they face back home while some are related to service conditions and leaves.
The taskforce has been asked by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to identify risk factors like “past suicidal attempt by the trooper, impulsivity as a personality trait, mental illness, alcohol or drugs abuse, aggressive tendencies, acute emotional crises, acute severe physical illness or chronic physical illness, acute stressful life events among others” during their analysis and frame recommendations
The taskforce has also been asked to find if “any changes or modifications can be done in the deployment pattern of the troops and some way in which access to mobile phones can be limited during deployment phases” to check instances where troops take the extreme step of ending their lives.
The panel of officers will also go through “protective factors” like the personnel having strong relationship with family members; skills in problem solving and conflict resolution; personal, social and religious beliefs and connections to spirituality.
It has been suggested by the home ministry that the taskforce also look into the aspects of improving awareness about suicide prevention, policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol and drugs, importance of mental well-being etc.
The panel will also devise plans to “screen” suicidal ideas or plans before and after a personnel avails leave.
It will also look at training personnel to identify “vulnerable” colleagues and ways to address issues related to a certain stigmas or taboo subjects.
A senior home ministry officer said the taskforce is an effort to “comprehensively address the issue of suicides in forces.”
“Life of every person is precious and a trained soldier is valuable for the country. While one can say the number of suicide cases are very less as compared to the overall strength of these forces, it is no doubt a very challenging subject to address,” the officer said.
A CAPF officer, however, said that rather than creating a taskforce of officers, the ministry should bring in subject experts from the private domain.
“An outsider with expertise on this subject will be able to suggest some harsh remedies which may not be suggested by the in-house panel.”
“While the taskforce is authorised to talk to domain experts from the mental health arena, a free hand given to them can bring in radical changes,” the CAPF officer said. (PTI)
These paramilitary forces have a combined strength of over 10 lakh personnel and their troops are deployed from very hot temperatures ranging from 50 degrees to as low as minus 40.
They not only guard Indian borders but also undertake counter-terrorist, counter-insurgency and anti-Naxal operations despite having very less basic facilities owing to their remote or continuously mobile deployment. (PTI)