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March 12, 2015 11:25 pm

Mosquitoes kill more CRPF than Moaists

NEW DELHI: More than Naxals hiding in the jungles of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Bihar, it is a combination of stress and mosquitoes that’s taking a toll on the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF). Data now empirically bears out the cruel irony in the fact that for men in one of the largest security forces to be posted in the most difficult terrains in remote areas, the larger enemy is perhaps one that can be contained.

Mild fever or body aches- early symptoms of malaria, go unreported and hence undiagnosed. Tough working conditions are also leading to stress, causing heart-attacks. This is reflecting in higher casualties from health-related issues for the men in uniform than from armed combat in India’s Red zones.   

Latest data from the government of India reveals that more CRPF men have died due to malaria and heart attack than have fallen to Maoist attacks in the 106 Naxal-affected districts in the country, Times of India reports. Numbers released by the home ministry show that in 2014, while 50 CRPF men died in Maoist attacks, almost twice the number- 95 died due to various diseases. Of these 27 fell to malaria, while 35 died from heart attacks. In 2015 too, 9 CRPF men were taken by diseases rather than by Maoists. 

While the home ministry has claimed that it has been providing medicines, organising health campaign programmes, setting up infrastructure facilities and educating security personnel on good health practices, CRPF sources, say the problem is not lack of medicines. The real problem is lack of proper or timely diagnosis and mounting work pressure. 

A CRPF officer who recently served in Sukma, Chhattisgarh is quoted as saying, “At camps in the jungles, there are just a few constables trained in first aid and armed with malaria detection kit. Several times they fail to diagnose correctly as strains such as falciparum malaria do not always come with high fever. By the time the personnel falls seriously sick, it is too late as evacuation from the camp alone takes about two days.”

The remoteness of the locations where the security men are required to spend long hours in the open, patrolling, ensures that they are exposed to a range of threats not limited to Naxals. Since there are less number of personnel and huge areas to patrol, jawans are under considerable pressure not to seek leave or rest days for minor reasons. Mild fevers or body aches which typical symptoms of malaria often go unreported as the soldiers are expected to overlook and brave them. This means, it is often too late to save the men by the time it becomes clear, what they are suffering from. 

As for heart attacks, difficult working conditions naturally add to stress which leads to hypertension and heart attacks. Calls for yoga generally fall on deaf ears as after gruelling patrolling in jungles, a jawan is hardly in the mood or condition to perform structured exercises. The poor working conditions for jawans in Naxal-infested areas and lack of access to medical care make a potent mix more deadly than that posed by dangerous militants for the unsuspecting Indian soldier. 

The data shows a widening gap in number of deaths due to malaria and heart attacks and those caused by Maoist attacks over the years. While in 2012, 36 CRPF men died of mosquito bites and heart attacks as against 37 in Maoist violence, a year later in 2013, as many as 22 CRPF men fell victim to the competing potency of health threats as opposed to 20 deaths caused by Maoist attacks. --EJ

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