Srinagar: As many as 41 Army jawans have died in weather-related incidents in Siachen glacier in eastern Ladakh from 2013 till March 31 this year, an Army official said on Friday.
Siachen at a height of 19, 600 feet is the world’s highest battleground, where India and Pakistan have fought intermittently since April 1984 but which has also been the scene of many natural disasters.
The most recent such major incident occurred on February 3 this year when a huge wall of frost and snow crashed in, smothering a vast area which also had an Army camp and killing as many as ten soldiers including a junior commissioned officer.
Colonel S.D. Goswami, spokesman at Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Command, in a statement said that ten soldiers died in 2013, eight in 2014 and nine in 2015 at the Siachen glacier. Another 14 soldiers lost their lives till March 31 this year, he said.
“Troops being posted in high altitude areas are trained in basic and advance skills in mountains and snow bound areas,” he said adding that those posted in avalanche prone areas are subjected to series of training in the field formation area.
He also said that medical equipment exists in all posts to cater for emergencies and that best quality of winter clothing and equipment is procured to prevent weather related casualties.
Modern means of conveyance like snow scooters are utilized to ensure timely reaction to any eventuality and reduce fatigue and a number of specialized equipment have also been deployed in the avalanche prone areas.
The spokesman said that weather conditions prevailing in the sector are closely monitored by the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment stations at Sasoma and Srinagar. “The weather warnings issued are religiously followed in terms of restrictions on operation and administration related movement,” he said.
However despite all these precautionary and post-disaster measures, many soldiers have died or lost their limbs while serving in Siachen and other high-altitude areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
The spokesman said that adequate compensation is being provided to soldiers and other defence personnel deployed at difficult terrain in border areas in the form of salaries and compensatory allowances in the form of special Siachen allowance.
“Highly active field area allowance, field area allowance, modified field area Allowance and high altitude (uncongenial climate) allowance depending upon the classification of area concerned are giving to them and these allowance are in addition to the Military Services Pay (MSP) being paid to defence services personnel,” he said.
He clarified that salaries paid to the defence personnel do not depend upon area of deployment and that these are same as per rank and structure. “However, certain allowances vary as per area of deployment and are also revised from time to time,” he said.
Colonel Goswami also said that there been no instances of incursions by Chinese troops into Indian territory and reiterated that there is no commonly delineated Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China.
“There are areas along the border including areas in Ladakh where India and China have differing perception of LAC. Due to both sides undertaking patrolling up to their perception of the LAC, transgressions do occur,” he said.
On construction activities in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), he said the government has seen such reports and has conveyed its concerns to China about their activities and asked them to cease such activities.
He added that the government regularly takes up any transgression along LAC with the Chinese side through established mechanisms including flag meetings, border personnel meetings, meetings of working mechanism for consultation and coordination on India-China border affairs and diplomatic channels.
The spokesman said that as many as 118 attempted and 33 successful infiltration bids were made along the borders with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir in 2015. However, this year till March 31, only 24 attempted and 18 successful infiltrations incidents were reported, he said.
The spokesman reiterated the government stand that the issues relating to abetting infiltration along India-Pakistan border are taken up with the military authorities in Islamabad at the appropriate level through the established mechanism of flag meetings and weekly talks between the Directorate Generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both the countries.
“Government is fully seized of the security needs of the country. Necessary steps, as required, are taken to ensure that the national security concerns are adequately addressed through capability and infrastructural development. This is a continuous process,” he said on behalf of the government.