India loses around 1,600 military personnel every year due to road accidents, suicides and ailments, a media report says.
Latest figures collated by The Times of India show that road accidents claim the lives of over 350 soldiers, sailors and airmen every year, while another 120 personnel take the extreme step of committing suicide. Other big causes are training accidents and various health reasons, which “itself is a big worry for the forces that are supposed to be fighting fit.”
The Army, Navy and Indian Air Force (IAF) have lost over 6,500 personnel just since 2014. The highest toll, of course, is found in the 11.73-lakh strong Army, which dwarfs the IAF and Navy in terms of sheer manpower, the newspaper reports.
“Physical casualties” are more than 12 times the number of “battle casualties” in the Army, according to a report in the newspaper.
“If the force recorded 112 fatal battle casualties in border skirmishes, shelling, counter-insurgency operations and operational accidents in “notified areas” in 2016, it lost over 1,480 soldiers due to physical casualties,” the report says.
This year, the battle casualties in Army have just about crossed 80 till now, while the physical casualties have already touched 1,060.
Quoting sources, the newspaper reported that Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat last month expressed concern about his force losing “nearly two battalions (each battalion has 700-800 soldiers) worth of personnel every year” due to physical casualties. “He has stressed the urgent need to address this issue… new measures are being put in place, while the older ones are being fine-tuned,” said an officer.
Road accidents remain a big worry. A series of directives have been issued for proper training of drivers, regular monitoring and medical fitness tests, and strict punishing of errant or negligent behaviour.
“Night driving, if not operationally required, is also being discouraged. But the Army is also huge in terms of manpower, with massive vehicular movement in difficult terrains around the country every day,” said a senior officer.
Stress-related deaths like suicides and fratricide (to kill a fellow soldier or superior) also take a huge toll. Over 330 soldiers, including nine officers and 19 junior commissioned officers, have committed suicide since 2014. There have also been a dozen cases of fratricide in the time frame.
“Prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency operations in J&K and north-east also takes a toll on the physical and mental endurance of soldiers. All this is also compounded by relatively poor salaries, denial of leave, lack of basic amenities and ineffectual leadership,” the report says.