Among the many fights it has been engaged in, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is waging one against its own ailments. A large proportion of this fighting force—about 25 per cent—is suffering from serious diseases.
The numbers are startling. In the last four years, from 2005 to 2008, almost half of its 2.6 lakh-strong workforce has suffered serious ailments.
Close to 50 per cent of these—almost 60,000 of the entire force—is suffering from diseases, which are either long-term or permanent afflictions and potentially life-threatening, like cancer, hepatitis, hypertension, heart problems, AIDS or psychiatric symptoms.
The most common problem, however, relates to the skin.
In these four years, the force has lost 1,425 men to diseases.
The number is only marginally less than the total number of casualties it has suffered in combat operations since 1946—1,659 men, including the 25 who died this year.
While there are several factors for the poor health of one of the largest para-military units of the world, one of the biggest reason is the pathetic conditions they live and operate in. Though this is a reserve force, of late it has almost permanently been deployed in troubled regions.
According to data obtained from the CRPF, more than 80 per cent of its personnel, including 6,000 officers of assistant commandant level and above, have not got a peaceful/static posting in the last 20 years.
The continuous deployment has resulted in a sharp rise in the stress levels of the soldiers, as evident from a large number of stress-related diseases like hypertension, heart ailments and psychiatric problems.
The stress factor has also led to a rise in incidents of fratricide in recent times. Since 2001, the CRPF has lost 35 men in fratricidal incidents.
3 May, 2009
Note: At present, CRPF has 191 Battalions. The Force remained committed to internal security and counter insurgency cum- anti-terrorist operations in various parts of the country. This is a Force with ladies contingents organised in two Mahila Battalions.
CRPF has been unable to halt the suicides among its personnel, despite introducing counselling and yoga.