ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Discipline in a Disciplined Force

The arrest of two army officers belonging to the III Madras Regiment by the Kolkata police and their subsequent forcible release by 20 of their own “unit” members in the early hours of January 1, 2007 compel us to take a look at the civilian-military relationship. The two officers who were detained had returned with their unit to Kolkata after serving two years in Siachen. The Statesman (January 2, 2007) quotes a senior army officer saying, “(t)aking into account the difficult conditions in the Siachen glacier, one should have taken a humane approach. Suicides are increasing because army personnel are not treated with respect.” Obviously the unnamed officer, whom the newspaper described as an army psychiatrist based in Jammu, was suggesting that civilian authorities have little appreciation of the stupendous work performed by army personnel in the most trying of circumstances.

It is far-fetched to link the alleged molestation of women at a new year’s party at Park Hotel in Kolkata by army officers to their having just returned from Siachen because this cannot excuse such misbehaviour. It is, nevertheless, correct that the impact of deployment in inhospitable heights and cold weather not only causes physical impairment but also mental health problems. This needs to be understood because the increase in cases of “fragging”, suicides and stress have been found to be high among soldiers deployed in what is called “a low intensity conflict zone”. A study on the ‘Psychological and Psychiatric Effects of Extreme Cold Environments’ by Col D Saldanha, Lt Col S Chaudury, Surg Cmdr A A Pawar, Surg Cdr VVSR Ryali, K Srivastatva, Lt Col V Pande and Maj R Saini, published in the Industrial Psychiatry Journal [14(1-2), 2005] provides some insight into this area. The study asserts that:

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