Special Correspondent

National Ex-Servicemen Coordination Committee's appeal

KOCHI: The National Ex-Servicemen Coordination Committee has urged the Government to constitute a Parliamentary committee to study the causes of the suicides and killings of superiors in the armed forces.

A delegation, which met the Sixth Pay Commission in Delhi on March 16, raised the issue of a large number of soldiers killing themselves and sought urgent Government steps to stem the tide. Committee general secretary Govind Singh Adhikari headed the delegation.

The delegation pointed out to the commission that most of the suicides were the results of operational stress in the services, low salary, emotional problems of living away from family and pressures from the superiors, according to K.P. Saidalavi, Kerala general secretary of the committee.

The delegation also urged the commission to ask the Government to set up a fast-track grievance-redressal mechanism in the armed forces to effectively settle the soldiers' problems.

There were some one lakh grievance petitions pending with the courts and at the military headquarters.

The non-redressal of grievances was one of the main causes of suicide and killing of superiors and colleagues. The troops should be reassured that they would be treated with dignity, fairness and equality. Better service conditions would go a long way in reducing the stress and grievances of the troops which would bring the suicide rate down, Mr. Saidalavai said.

The delegation sought pension for ex-servicemen who have served for at least five years, as in the case of MLAs and MPs. It also sought that a half of jobs in defence undertakings, ordnance factories and other establishments run by the Defence Ministry be reserved for retired armed forces personnel.

It wanted the age limit for applying jobs in the Government and in the public sector for retired defence personnel be raised to 50 from the current 45.

Mr. Saidalavi said the delegation had a very fruitful discussion with the commission members. He noted that the Defence Minister, A.K. Antony, had a key role in raising the jawans' leave from 56 days to 60 days.