M A I N   N E W S

Army to strengthen stress counselling: Pranab
Tribune News Service and PTI

Kolkata, June 18
The Ministry of Defence has decided to strengthen stress counselling for the armed forces following the alleged suicide of Army officer Lieut Sushmita Chakraborty. “There is a counselling set up to address the stress and strains faced by the officers and personnel of the Army. That system will be strengthened,” Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here today when asked whether his ministry would introduce special counselling following Chakraborty’s suicide.

The Army yesterday announced in Delhi that more psychiatric centres would be opened in “high pressure areas” in the Northern and Eastern Commands as part of the new stress-busting measures among the ground forces.

Asked what other steps his ministry would take to prevent such incidents, Mr Mukherjee said an inquiry into the incident had already been ordered and any further step would be decided on the basis of the inquiry findings.

Asked whether Vice-Chief of the Army Staff Lt-Gen K. Pattabhiraman’s comment against women joining the Army would discourage them from entering the services, Mr Mukherjee said, “We want more women to join. They are doing a very good job. There are problems, but those will be taken care of”.

Meanwhile, the Defence Minister was shown black flags in the city today by the students wing of the Forward Bloc in protest against the Centre’s shelving of the Mukherjee Commission’s inquiry report on the Netaji’s death. They demanded that the report be placed in the Lok Sabha and accepted by the government immediately.

Mr Mukherjee was proceeding towards Taj Bengal hotel in south Kolkata to attend a seminar in the afternoon, when a group of students of the Chhatra Block and some Netaji lovers suddenly “gheraoed” his convoy and started shouting slogans. They were carrying black flags and posters and protesting against the Centre’s indifferent attitude towards resolving the mystery of Netaji’s death.

The police, however, intervened and rescued the Defence Minister by chasing out the demonstrators. Eight students were arrested but they were later released on furnishing of bond.


Suspend Army Vice-Chief, says Sushma

Bhubaneswar, June 18
Taking strong exception to remarks by the Army Vice-Chief, Lt-Gen K. Pattabhiraman, that the force could “do without women”, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj today demanded that he be suspended immediately.

“It is a reflection of the working of the Army and its mindset. If I was the Defence Minister, I would have called the Vice-Chief and told him we can do without you. You can go,” she said.

“The mindset of Army officers is such that they would not create a conducive atmosphere for women to work in,” she alleged.

Since Congress President Sonia Gandhi was a woman, she should ascertain the facts from Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and issue directions accordingly, Ms Swaraj said.

The Army, however, said Pattabhiraman was “misquoted” and it was the government's policy to encourage women to join the armed forces. There are currently over 900 women officers in the Army.

Ms Swaraj said a more conducive environment should be provided to women cadets and officers in the Army.

She said she would visit Bhopal, the home of Lt Sushmita Chakraborty who shot herself at the Northern Command headquarters in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, to meet her parents on June 21. — PTI


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