Guns don’t kill Indian soldiers, but, Samosas do!
India’s army men’s are alarmingly under threat from a new enemy. The enemy is not from much far, But much closer to home.
The new statistics made available by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) disclose that the leading cause of death among people from the paramilitary and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) is not battles, but their ill health.
The 7 forces Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), National Security Guard (NSG) and Assam Rifles have lost 1,067 men in battle or counter-attack operations over a period of 3 years and 2 months.
On the meanwhile, more than three times greater amount – 3,611 – soldiers have died due to poor health and illnesses.
Former Border Security Force chief DK Pathak says he had arranged a review by the force’s medical directorate, which raised concerns.
‘The study gave us an insight that heart diseases were the leading cause of deaths in army men, followed by suicides,’ DK Pathak says.
‘Additionally, every 2 months 3 soldiers were in the jaws of death because of heart attacks.’ While Border Security Force jawan Tej Bahadur complained of ill-cooked food and poor-quality ration in videos that created a flutter on social medias this year, the findings of the medical directorate review paint a different picture.
‘Rich food, high cholesterol, and poor lifestyle were taking a toll on the Army persons’ health, leading to high BP, heart disease like heart attacks and diabetes,’ said a consolidated study.
The army men in the force have been told to reduce their waist size as well as replace samosas and jalebis in their diet with fruits and salads.
Soldiers from Punjab and Haryana facing the increased risk of heart-related problems because of a high-dairy diet, Says DK Pathak.
The Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force deployed in violence-affected Jammu and Kashmir, Naxal-infested areas such as in Chhattisgarh, as well as West Bengal and Tripura, have taken the most hits, the Ministry of Home Affairs data discloses.
These parts are also turning out to be a strained graveyard for the army personnel.
While the highest number of battle-related casualties for the Central Reserve Police Force during the 38 months was in Kashmir at 303 deaths for all ranks, Chhattisgarh was second at 163 followed by West Bengal at 70.
However, the race to death due to diseases or illnesses shows West Bengal taking the lead at 265, with Jammu Kashmir next at 170, followed closely by Uttar Pradesh at 141, Rajasthan at 134 and Punjab at 122.
The stress-triggered heart attack is a major killer of Indian soldiers in addition to a variety of diseases and illnesses, the data shows.
Other identified causes are cancer, dengue, hepatitis B, jaundice, and malaria. While the instances of deaths due to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS) and malaria went down in the forces during this period, But mortalities in rail and road accidents continue.
There is another one notable thing, the lower ranks in the forces are more prone to diseases. A senior Border Security Force officer said the increasing size of soldiers has been a cause of concern.
‘A number of initiatives are being taken by the force to ensure a healthy lifestyle among the soldiers,’ he added.
The BSF is tasked to secure the two most important borders of India with Pakistan and Bangladesh, besides being stationed for a variety of internal security duties including in Maoist-hit areas.
Last year, the then Central Reserve Police Force chief Durga Prasad discussed with the medical board deaths of CRPF personnel due to diseases, especially heart attack.
Servicemen with mobile smartphones were advised to download an app, which would monitor the heart and alert in case of any ailment.
“Bad food, oily snacks, cholesterol-rich items have made their way to a soldier’s plate. We gave advise the troopers that the ration is what they purchase with their money and they should choose a healthier life”Durga Prasad Says.
The Central Reserve Police Force in the last decade tried to tie up with culinary schools to teach the cooks to produce healthier food, but the plan has failed.
‘We have a new Memorandum of understanding (MoU) with skill development so that we can initiate training of cooks,’ the former Director General said.
‘Besides that, we’re introducing circuit training to improve cardiovascular activity in left-wing extremism areas as well as in limited format in Jammu and Kashmir that is considered a hard duty.’
Both forces though admit that factors such as a constant threat to life and being away from family were adding to stress-related deaths.
A senior officer said, ‘In the Naxal belt and Northeast states, the forces have effectively managed malaria-related deaths, which have come down over the past years. But challenges remain in spite of that.
Many soldiers with medical problems are posted in Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal as well as other cities for easy access to hospitals, which is why the Central Armed Police Forces have reported more deaths in these areas An army officer told.