More Central Armed Police Force (CAPF) personnel died by suicide in the Covid-19 pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 than in any year in the past one decade, and more than 1,200 personnel died by suicide in the last 10 years, according to data provided to Parliament on Tuesday.
The government told the Lok Sabha that 156 CAPF personnel died by suicide in 2021, and 143 in 2020. In 2019, 129 such deaths were recorded, according to data.
According to data available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 1.53 lakh cases of death by suicide was recorded in 2020, up from 1.39 lakh in 2019.
The data on suicide deaths of CAPF personnel was provided by Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai to Lok Sabha in a written reply to a question. Rai said that in the last 10 years 1,205 CAPF personnel have died by suicide.
The CAPF comprises forces such as CRPF, BSF, CISF, ITBP, BSF, NSG and Assam Rifles (AR). Together, they have 9 lakh personnel.
The data comes at a time when the issue of stress among forces personnel has been a topic of discussion in the backdrop of recent incidents of fratricide in BSF — seven BSF personnel have been killed in such incidents this month alone. There have been more than 25 incidents of fratricide reported in the forces since 2019.
Sources said these incidents have occurred largely due to harsh working conditions, coupled with family issues and unavailability of leave when required. In 2019, Home Minister Amit Shah had said that leaves available to CAPF personnel would be increased to 100 days from the existing 75 days. This is yet to be implemented.
A proposal by CAPFs to increase casual leave of CAPF personnel from 15 days to 30 days on the lines of defence personnel has also not been accepted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Rai informed the House that a task force was set up in October 2021 to identify relevant risk factors as well as relevant risk groups and suggest remedial measures for prevention of suicides in CAPFs and Assam Rifles (AR) personnel. The composition of the ‘task force’ was modified in December 2021, he said.
“Domestic problems, illness and financial problems are some of the contributory factors among others behind the incidents of suicide,” he said. “Improvement in working conditions of (personnel from) CAPFs, Assam Rifles and National Security Guard (NSG) is a constant endeavour.”
Rai said the government is taking many steps to take care of mental health of CAPF personnel. “To reduce the stress level of CAPFs…various steps have been taken by the MHA, CAPFs, Assam Rifles and NSG. As part of the process, ‘Art of Living’ courses are being conducted for CAPFs…personnel which have positive impacts on the jawans.”
He said the government had ushered in “transparent policies pertaining to transfer and leave of CAPFs”, and “choice posting is considered to the extent possible after the personnel served in hard area.” He said hospitalisation period due to injuries while on duty is treated as on-duty even as regular interaction of officers with troops to find out and redress their grievances is organised.
Besides this, the government is ensuring adequate rest and relief by regulating their duty hours, improving living conditions for troops, providing adequate recreational/entertainment, sports, communication facilities, etc, Rai said.
Facility of retention of government accommodation at the place of last posting (for keeping the family) while posted in the Northeast, J&K and Left Wing Extremism-affected areas (except state capitals), providing better medical facilities as well as organising talks with specialists to address their personal and psychological concerns and organising meditation and yoga routinely for better stress management were some other measures, according to the MHA.
Rai said the ministry is also providing adequate compensation to the troops deployed in difficult areas.