KOLKATA: It is neither the attacks by Maoists nor combating political violence, but ailments and suicides, that have caused the death of several West Bengal Police personnel in the last couple of years. Cardiac and kidney problems plaguing the policemen deployed on field duty are a cause of worry for the state police admin. The number of policemen, who were killed while preventing clashes between political parties or in militant attacks, is far less than those who died as a result of ailments.
Another major concern is depression, resulting in suicidal tendencies among policemen, mostly among those in the lower rung of the force. There had been many cases of police constables using service rifles to take their own lives. Senior police officials had ordered regular medical checkup for and even organised yoga camps to keep the force fit and prevent cases of suicides. But the statistics of the last few years showed that it had not been of much help.
In 2010, 25 cops were killed on the line of duty, but 162 died of ailments while 11 committed suicide. In 2011, a year which saw Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress ousting the CPM-led Left Front Government, only 20 policemen died as a result of violent incidents, while 193 succumbed to serious illnesses and 12 committed suicide.
In 2012, the death toll while preventing clashes went up to 24, while 133 died of ailments and 10 killed themselves. In 2013, 22 cops were killed but 141 died due to various diseases. The suicide rate went up to 29, which was the highest that year.
“The tendency to commit suicide is on the rise. Heart disease and renal problems are also very common in the force. Work pressure, directions to carry out political diktats and bad behaviour of a section of senior officers, denial of leave are the main reasons for depression leading to suicides,” a senior police official said.
Another police official in charge of the welfare of the force said, “These deaths and the suicides are a matter of concern. We have taken various steps to reduce mental pressure of Constables and junior officers.”