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Antony Concerned Over Growing Suicide Rates in Armed Forces

Expressing concern over growing incidents of suicides and fratricides in the armed forces, Defence Minister A.K. Antony Monday called for steps to "urgently" address the// issue.

"The number of suicide and fratricide cases continues to be a cause of concern and must be addressed urgently," he said while addressing the five-day Army Commanders' Conference here.

The armed forces witnessed a staggering 146 suicides in 2006. There have been 21 cases this year alone.

"All possible steps must be taken to reduce the stress on jawans," Antony said, urging the top brass to lay adequate emphasis on humanitarian aspects through better and more humane man management.

"This can be done through enhanced interaction between senior and junior officers - both in qualitative and quantitative terms," he suggested.

"Till the human aspect is suitably taken care of, all attempts at modernisation of the forces, providing better pay and allowances, training and discipline, will not be able to achieve the desired results. The need of the hour is to reduce stress levels among armed forces personnel.

"Psychological counselling and relaxation exercises too can go a long way in reducing the stress levels on jawans and help reduce cases of suicide and fratricide," the minister maintained.

Antony also called upon the Service Headquarters to constantly monitor statutory and non-statutory complaints to provide timely redressal to all concerned.

He called for a fair and transparent promotion policy.

"Since Army Commanders deliberate on the personal profiles of the senior officers in the zone of consideration at the time of promotion, they should look into various aspects of these profiles keeping the officers' meritorious record so that there is no room for inconsistencies or arbitrariness while grading them," Antony said.

He said that after the Sixth Pay Commission was set up last year, separa te cells had been established for the three services and were working to formulate proposals to be submitted directly to the commission.

"After the services submit their proposals to the Pay Commission, the ministry will also follow these up in right earnest," the minister stated.

"The government, on its part, will continue to provide all support to the armed forces. However, the onus of maintaining the preparedness and morale of our armed forces lies with you," Antony told the Army Commanders.

"You have to make a collective effort to ensure that our forces continue to be in top physical and mental state. I am sure you all will rise to the occasion and ensure that the armed forces meet all their goals and emerge as one of the best and self-reliant armed forces of the world," the minister added.

Source-IANS/V
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