New Delhi: Citing the strategic significance of Siachen, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday
Most of the soldiers have died in Siachen due to cold weather than by the enemy fire
New Delhi : Is India pushing its soldiers to Siachen, the world’s highest and coldest battlefield, like suicide squads by not providing them all the necessary special gears they require to stand guard at the border in the freezing temperatures that plunge as low as minus 45 degree celsius?
Technical specifications of the equipment issued by the Army Headquarters to them are dated back to 1980s while much better equipments have been developed abroad. Most of the soldiers have died there due to cold weather than by the enemy fire. Less than a month after 10 soldiers were buried in an avalanche at the Siachen Glacier, documents reveal several shortcomings in the mountaineering gears issued to the troops deployed there. No surprises over 870 soldiers have lost their dies due to environmental factor since the Operation Meghdoot to guard Siachen amid standoff with Pakistan that began in 1984.
The documents show that the avalanche cord, a key factor in assisting in quick rescue of victims does not remain fluorescent and turns blackish with time and as such it cannot be visible in the inclement weather. Face masks that are provided to the soldiers for protecting them from extreme cold are tough to handle as they are 3-piece attachments that cannot be handled by a person on his own unless assisted by someone else. Those on duty in Siachen have also repeatedly complained about karabinders, ascenders, descenders and pulleys having design defects and getting eroded, thus reducing safety and load carrying capacity.
Each solder is authorised 55 items, including clothes, safety gadgets, protection gear and mountaineering equipment. A demand has come after the tragic death of 10 early February for supply of new equipment that includes better face masks, avalanche cords, karabiner screws for anchoring, pulleys for hauling system, lightweight ascenders and descenders for negotiating ice walls and ice pitons. Most of these are imported and there lies the catch as they can’t come off the shelves, notwithstanding the demand for immediate supplies. The Master General of the Ordnance Branch at the Army Headquarters here, responsible for procurements, is in the process of undertaking “product improvement” to supply better quality equipment that matches the latest available abroad.