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Lieut-Col posted in J&K kills himself
Vijay Mohan
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, December 1
A senior Army officer serving in Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Jammu and Kashmir was found dead from gunshot wounds in his room this afternoon. Though a court of inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the death, initial reports indicate that he committed suicide.

This is for the first time that an officer of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel has taken the extreme step while deployed in counter-insurgency environment. Earlier, such instances involved junior officers either newly commissioned or with few years’ service.

The deceased has been identified as Lieut-Col Pankaj Jha, an EME officer posted as Assistant Quarter Master General with Headquarters 15, Sector RR, at Mahore in Udhampur district.

According to sources, the officer had proceeded to his room at about 4 pm, when a gunshot was heard. He had allegedly used his service pistol to shoot himself. The officer, stated to have had a good career profile, had completed about 14 years’ service and was posted in J&K about a year ago.

Sources in Northern Command revealed that the deceased had complained to senior officers several times of being “overburdened” with work due to non-availability of officers in the establishment. Sources claim that some time ago, the office had sought a posting elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it is learnt that the General Officer Commanding of a counter-insurgency force had issued a warning to field commanders earlier this month for not giving due attention to administrative matters in their formations.

This year alone, 130 army personnel, including six officers and five Junior Commissioned Officers have committed suicide. The Ministry of Defence stated in Parliament that in majority of the cases, this extreme step was resorted to due to personal and family problems like marital discord, medical problems, depression, property issues and also because of organisation factors.

Proactive approach through better man management techniques is being adopted at different levels. Measures such as identification of high-risk category, increased inter-personnel relationship and communication between officers and jawans, stress management, counselling by professionals, establishment of helpline and increased focus on welfare activities are being taken to prevent such incidents.

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