—RDevelopment raises panic amongst Indian Army, Government —Army Chief seeks help from Home Minister Chidambaram after soared ties with Defence Minister —Home Affairs Ministry purchases bulk of contraceptive manufacturing machines —Condom making machines being installed at battalion headquarters across border areas —Both male, female soldiers developing serious diseases due to unsafe sex practices —Special team of IAMC gynecologists rushes to Military hospitals in Kashmir region to handle situation
From Christina Palmer & Ajay Mehta in New Delhi
and Nandita Bhat in Udhampur
New Delhi- The first battalion of Indian army that actually comprises sex workers, recruited from relight areas across India with the help of RAW and posted as Border Guards in the occupied Kashmir by Indian army in September 2009, with aims to provide “fun” to soldiers in the area who were constantly committing suicide, is now reported to be suffering from some serious medical problems due to unsafe sexual activities while at least 63 out of the total 178 female “soldiers”, posted under Northern Command in September last, are reported t have been tested positive in the pregnancy tests, carried out at military hospitals while many male soldiers have also been diagnosed with serious sex related diseases, reveal the investigations of The Daily Mail.
The Daily Mail’s investigations reveal that the problem started occurring when in the month of December a large number of female “soldiers” started reporting SIQ (Sick-In-Quarter) at different formations with complaints of minute illness like vomiting and headaches. However, as the number of complaints in this direction started rising dramatically, the patients were referred to Military Hospital at Badamibagh cantonment in Srinagar. At Srinagar’s Military Hospital, after different tests, it was found that the female soldiers sent there from different formations were mostly suffering from no disease but were found to pregnant while a few others were treated for different unsafe-sex related minor diseases. Captain Dr. Jyoti (name changes on source’s request) of the IAMC (Indian Army Medical Corps), posted at the Military Hospital told The Daily Mail that at least 63 female soldiers, sent to the base hospital from different field units were tested positive in the pregnancy tests. “It was something unusual that these women were found 8 to 10 weeks with pregnancy while they were not sent on leave since their posting some 12 to 14 weeks back. Similarly some other 38 were found having some minor diseases but these were sex related diseases that occur normally due to unsafe sexual activities and thus we reported the matter to the commandant of the hospital who forwarded the same to the high command”, asserted Dr. Jyoti.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that the situation rang alarm bells in the Eastern Command’s headquarters where an emergency meeting was held which, apart from others, was attended by Major General Harinder Singh, Commandant of the IAMC of Northern Command. Since the matter was of very serious nature, it was decided in the meeting that was held under the command of the Commander of the 14th corps to bring the matter to the notice of the Army Headquarters at New Delhi. The News arrived at Army Headquarters at New Delhi as a bomb because the headquarter was already suffering from a high profile controversy of land scams and the rift between Army Chief and Commander Eastern Command over the issue was at the peak and Defence Minister was in no mood to give any support to Army Chief Deepak Kapoor.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that since the project of posting sex workers in the disguise of female soldiers in Kashmir was initiated by the orders of General Deepak Kapoor without seeking any formal approval from the Defence Minister, the news cam as a big shock as General Kapoor was already at odds with the Defence Minister A.K Antony over the issue of corruption in sale of army lands. Our sources reveal that upon this, Army Chief held a classified meeting with his confidants and aides and also invited Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services Lt. General N.K Parmar. In the meeting, it was decided to dash a team of gynecologists from Delhi to Northern Command to tackle the situation on emergency, yet confidential basis. Upon this, a team of 9 gynecologists from IAMC was sent to Northern Command. The team performed the abortions upon some 56 “soldiers while rest of the 7 were shifted to Udhampur-based military hospital as their ‘cases’ were reported to be bit complicated and required some serious surgeries. The said team of Army Gynecologists, headed by Lt. Colonel. Bharti Sharma, not only treated the patients but also gave them tips to follow the safe sex practices. In the meanwhile, several male soldiers from the same region were also reported SIQ with sex related diseases.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that as the situation started worsening, the Army Chief General Kapoor contacted Lt. General. Raj Kumar Karwal, who was the head of the committee which recommended the posting of undercover sex workers in Kashmir to meet the natural requirements of the sex starving male soldiers. Sources reveal that General Karwal told General Kapoor that while following his committee’s recommendations, the recommendations, regarding the provision of safe sex devices like the condoms and educating the soldiers about safe sex practices were not followed at all as the committee had recommended that prior to the posting of sex workers amongst the ranks of soldiers, the soldiers must be provided with precautionary measures and should be given tips regarding the safe sex practices.
Sources revealed that upon this, General Kapoor, who had hopes of a support from Defence Minister Antony in this matter, decided to approach the Home Affairs Minister P Chidambaram. Upon contacting, Chidambaram promised general Kapoor of his all out support.
The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that hiding behind the notion of helping the Paramilitary forces, Chidambaram ordered the Home Affairs Ministry to procure condom making machines to be given to military and paramilitary authorities for installing at remote areas of deployment, particularly along the borders. According to a report, released by Indian’s State news agency Press Trust of India (PTI), Indian Government is procuring more than 1,000 units of condom vending machines to promote safe sex practices among its military and para-military deployed in far flung areas.
The machines, the PTI reports further, for the men of forces like CRPF, CISF, SSB, ITBP, BSF and NSG will be installed at the battalion and sector headquarters of the forces, especially along the borders.
"A total of 1,080 machines are being procured by the Home Ministry. The idea is to promote safe sex practices amongst the soldier who are deployed at far off places for long durations," PTI reports, quoting a senior para-military officer.
The PTI further reports that the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) has been appointed as nodal agency by the Home Ministry for procurement of these machines as well as all health related purchase and activities.
“The condoms, to be provided through these machines, have been procured from different companies and would be provided to the soldiers free of cost but on rationing basis every month,” concludes the PTI report.
The Daily Mail’s finding further indicate that the soldier of Indian army, posted in Indian Occupied Kashmir and other border areas of India often indulge into unsafe sexual activities including rapes and prostitution. While the complaints of rapes and gang rapes by Indian soldiers are fairly common in Kashmir valley, the border natives other regions are also constant victims of brutal forced rapes of women by the frustrating Indian soldiers. The female villagers along the either side of Indo-Myanmar border, Indo-Bangladesh border and Indo- Nepal border are often sexually assaulted by Indian soldiers while visiting the prostitution dens and opting for paid, yet unsafe sex is a common practice throughout the Indian Army and at many garrisons, Indian Army High Command has taken stringent measures to curb prostitution and have even displayed sign suggesting a ban on prostitution in the area. However the number of such incident had reached alarming limits and the Indian soldiers got into a severe trauma of sexual and mental frustration due to continuous bans on different recreational facilities by the top authorities and thus they started indulging into suicide practices and killing the colleagues as well. The Daily Mail’s findings indicate that adding to the miseries of soldiers in Kashmir, the Indian Army announced imposing a ban on use of mobile phones by soldiers, posted in the Occupied valley. These findings indicate that senior medical officers of the Indian armed forces believe that just engaging the sex workers under the grab of female soldiers was not enough to rid the soldiers of frustration and mental stress but the use of mobile phone by troops was also a permanent source of stress and strain for the soldiers, deployed in the occupied valley.
“The problem is not the stress in the encounter, the problem is the cell phone and that should be banned,’’ said Lt-General Dipankar Ganguly, speaking on the occasion of the 246th anniversary of the Army Medical Corps
The top General said that cell phones allowed the soldiers to maintain regular contact with their families and get updated on their problems, which led to higher levels of stress among them.
Armed Forces Medical Services Director General Lt-Gen N K Parmar, in his observation, said that the armed forces had taken a number of steps to tackle stress-related issues among the troops.
But, as reported earlier, armed forces continue to grapple with stress-related deaths in the shape of suicide and `fragging’ (to kill a fellow soldiers) cases. In 2008, for instance, there were 151 suicide and four `fragging’ cases in the three Services.
While prolonged deployment in operations in Indian occupied part of J&K and North-East are exacting a heavy toll on the physical endurance and mental health of soldiers, they also undergo tremendous stress for not being able to take care of the problems facing their families back home. The problems could range from property disputes and harassment by anti-social elements to financial and marital problems.
Soldiers, of course, also have to grapple with paltry salaries, lack of basic amenities, ineffectual leadership, humiliation at the hands of their officers, and the constant fear of being accused of human rights violations.
The Daily Mail’s findings further reveal that not just the soldier but a number of Indian Army Officers are working in the institution against their wills but as a bonded labour. These findings indicate that since the Officers sign a bond while joining the army under which they have to pay a huge amount of money to army in case of quitting the job, they do not dare to do so due to poor financial conditions but work with a dead heart after being posted to duties at stations like Kashmir. These findings indicate that even young female commissioned officers are no exception in this direction. These findings indicate that a female officer of the Indian Army committed suicide by shooting herself in Udhampur, headquarter of the army's Northern Command, a couple of years back as she was "dissatisfied and unhappy with her job".
According to police and army officials in Udhampur, about 65 km north of Jammu, the 25-year-old officer Lt. Sushmita Chakravorty of 5071 ASC Battalion went to a guest house near her official quarters on Thursday evening and asked the sentry there for his rifle "as she wanted to get her photo with that".
The unsuspecting sentry handed his weapon and in moments Lt. Chakravorty shot herself with it. She was shifted to the army hospital where she was declared brought dead.
This was the first incident of its kind in Occupied Jammu and Kashmir of a female army officer committing suicide.
The officer's mother Sadhana Chakravorty told media persons in Udhampur that Lt. Chakravorty had "unwillingly joined the army about 10 months ago".
Lt. Chakravorty had returned from two months leave. "I came with her as she was feeling very low," her mother said.
Sadhana told reporters that her daughter had become very short tempered soon after joining army and being posted in Kashmir "disillusioned with her present job". She wanted to quit the army but could not do so as "she had to pay the bond money to the army".
"We had told her that the money could be arranged by selling off the house in Bhopal," Sadhana said. But Lt. Chakravorty did not agree to it "because she was concerned about her younger brother too who had just passed Class 12."
The Daily Mail’s finding that the female members of the Indian Army have always been serving under very miserable conditions as they are often sexually harassed and abused by seniors at workplaces “in the line of duty.” These findings indicate that in most of the cases the female officers of the Indian army remain silent over the sexual assaults and sexual abuses by seniors because even if they report so, instead getting justice, they are always victimized even loose jobs.
The Daily Mail’s findings further indicate that just in July 2009, an army court martial ordered “dismissal” of a woman officer Captain Poonam Kaur, who a year back had accused her seniors of sexually harassing her, but her allegations were found false.
Kaur , in 2008 alleged that three officers of her unit, the Army Supply Corps (ASC) in Kalka, Haryana had physically and sexually harassed her and confined her illegally when she resisted their advances.
A court of inquiry (COI) had then been ordered to investigate the allegations of physical and mental harassment leveled by Capt Kaur against her superior officers.
She had accused three of her seniors, including her commanding officer, the unit’s second-in-command and adjutant, a Colonel, Lt Col and a Major rank officer respectively, of harassing her over the past few months.
However, in an immediate reaction then, the army had denied the charges.
“The court martial proceedings, which were initiated, against Capt Kaur, in its order at Patiala, have ordered her dismissal from service, which will be subject to confirmation by the Western Command chief, a process which may take two months,” was the official announcement to conclude.