Without going to war, India has lost close to 4,000 soldiers in counter-insurgency operations as well as in manning high-altitude areas like Siachen in the last 12 years since the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan.
Moreover, over 100 soldiers continue to commit suicide every year. Defence minister A K Antony , in a written reply in Lok Sabha on Monday, said that while 530 soldiers were martyred during Operation Vijay in 1999, another 3,987 have been killed in the 2000-2012 timeframe.
The number of soldiers being killed in counter-insurgency operations in both Jammu and Kashmir and north-east, of course, has been steadily declining over the last decade with the Army achieving a much better "kill ratio" versus the militants. But suicide and fragging (to kill a fellow soldier) cases continue to remain as high as ever. Around 1,020 soldiers have committed suicide just since 2003.
Disclosing the figures, Antony said while 96 soldiers had committed suicide in 2009, the figures stood at 115 in 2010, 102 in 2011 and 81 till now this year. As reported by TOI earlier, three ugly face-offs between officers and jawans have also been reported in the 1.13-million strong Army in just the last one year.
This is a clear indicator of the declining standards of leadership and discipline in the 1.13-million strong Army, where jawans are no longer willing to be humiliated by their officers, as well as the stressful working conditions in the force.
The stand-off between officers and jawans of an armoured corps unit at Samba in J&K, in fact, had been triggered after a solider had committed suicide on August 8.
The one in Nyoma sector of eastern Ladakh in May had ended in a violent clash between officers and jawans of the 226 Field Artillery Regiment, leaving the unit commanding officer, two majors and two jawans hospitalised with limb fractures, bruises and other injuries.
Also, 25,063 soldiers have also proceeded on pre-mature retirement during the last three years. "However, reasons for seeking pre-mature retirement cannot be attributed to stressful working environment," said Antony, who added that government had been continuously taking steps to reduce stress among soldiers after undertaking a number of studies.
But the parliamentary standing committee on defence has repeatedly criticized the MoD for taking only piecemeal steps instead of totally revamping existing mechanisms to deal with stress and other problems faced by soldiers.