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IN People ON 14 Aug, 2016
''The land is so barren and the passes so high, that only the fiercest of enemies and the best of friends want to visit us.''- Said someone wise, very wise!
An armyman, posted in Siachen, is synonymous to Man of Steel if not to God. With posting as high as at the height of 22000ft, Siachen is world's highest battlefield and the armed force that proudly holds the territory is none other than the Indian Army.
Talking about the Siachen Border conflict, it dates back to April 1984 since incursions from across the border came into news and from then, there always has been a military presence from both the countries. However, there has been no news of incursion since a long time now. Also, it was only since 2007 that the area is mildly made open for limited mountaineering with the Indian Army inviting 60 lucky candidates for a 60kms trek in Siachen.
The temperature here can go as low as -60 degrees, and this is when the soldiers in Siachen glacier require something that no other battle force in the world requires. We will get deep into the life of soldiers, but before that, let me serve some of the deadliest facts around Siachen to help you understand the real value of what the men who serve the nation do for us daily without taking a holiday.
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Due to its hardly reachable terrain and extreme conditions, the only mode of transport, air transport, can make it to the barren jungle. This makes the cost of a single chapati reach 200 Indian rupees and that more than 60 times of what a chapati costs in Indian cities/villages. This in itself proves the adversity of Siachen.
Indian government's total expenditure on the Indian army has a big chunk kept aside only for the Siachen security. The government spends 1500 crore rupees a year for the purpose that boils down to 6.8 crore rupees every single day and 18000 rupees every second. Huge sum, right?
But the sum of money is nothing when it comes to the conditions that our soldiers are exposed to for a selfless duty.
Saurabh adds that there had been times when they were left with nothing at all to eat as the communication was lost and supply was affected badly by the worsening weather. Hanamanthappa's 6 days of struggle were a proof of just same.
Melting ice to drink water is a normal sight in Siachen glaciers, and our soldiers are mostly dependent on dry fruits and chocolates to stay energized and get going. The condition remains that harsh that an apple or orange freeze within seconds of their exposure to the temperature.
At 22000 ft, that is said to be the highest point where soldiers are posted, the temperature varies somewhere between -25 degrees to -60 degrees. This is the soul reason why the troops are not made to be staying at that highest point for any more than 90 days. The messenger of God operation is one good read to understand the same.
There is no bed, and they are forced by nature to make shiftbeds. They live in igloos/tents and takes 3 hours for them to have a bucket of water worth using.
Located in the Karakoram range, Siachen border is of 76kms that hold a dispute between Indian and Pakistan and hence the roads from India leading towards Siachen from Manali-Leh highway are always kept as blocked.
In 1984, to curb what was feared as an invasion of the Pak army into Siachen, Operation Meghdoot was launched by India that took a notch over Pakistan's Operation Abadeel. There has been peace since past 15 years on the Siachen border with no share of bullet firing.
As of December 11, 2015, 879 Indian soldiers have lost their lives serving on the Siachen border and to your utmost shock, let me tell you that 97% of those deaths occurred due to bad weather and not due to any battle between the two armies.
Pakistan lost 353 soldiers between 2003-10 according to Wikipedia. The total since 1984, however, is 915.
The nearest from Siachen where one can find a civilian is 10 miles downstream from the Indian base camp, village Warshi.
Posts in the remote areas have a satellite phone and every single soldier is allowed to call their home just once every week. 100-200 men in front of a single phone to talk. They also have the option to write to their family. This is a great psychological boost to them.
Siachen border is a place where frostbites and landslides are common. It is an infamous fact that if one touches the gun trigger with bare skin for any more than 15 seconds, it can lead to frostbite. While the oxygen level there is a mere 10 percent of what we have in plains, the atmospheric pressure and acclimatization are humongous problems.
Height above 5500 meters poses a very tough time acclimatizing. With a yearly snowfall above 3 dozen feet, it's not at all easy to stay there for long. Indian army spends 80% of the total time spent on soldiers on preparing them for the deployment.
For this, a normal training day at the High Altitude Warfare School begins with a cross-country patrolling while also carrying 15kgs of weight on the back.
They are also left for 72hours with only their survival skills to help them stay alive. To serve the purpose of managing to stay alive, these soldiers have to camp in an igloo or under a tree to keep alive.
They are then given a rigorous avalanche rescue training wherein they brush up with all the technicalities and skills needed to rescue the victims of any avalanche.
The toughest part comes when they are to be trained mentally as the acclimatization is possible if the mental strength at any point weakens. For this, a spokesperson from Army says that it is always a mental boost for the armymen to know that a doctor is around them.
Apart from these, the normal physical exercises that are not normal for us are all the part of their daily lives. These exercises range from rope climbing to mountaineering.
To drop food and cargo supplies above the height of 20000ft, not just skills but a great training and an awesome machine are needed. The Indian Army helicopters as well have to push the boundaries of their limitations with its pilot in order to climb over those mountain peaks all the way to hover over the army camps dropping life-saving cargos.
As seen in the case of Hanumanthappa, a total of 150 soldiers and 2 dogs were the reason behind finding Lance Naik Hanumanthappa who was buried under tons of ice for almost a week.
Apart from the man force, earth-penetrating radars and ice-cutting machines were used to complete the rescue operation. The heroes, however, were the two brave dogs, Dot and Misha, too.
The war memorial is situated at the Nubra Valley river bank where the name of every Indian soldier who lost his life serving from Siachen is inscribed proudly and beautifully.
Apart from that, a Hall Of Fame is constructed and opened in Leh Ladakh that has everything related to the Siachen history kept in the museum.
There is no stopping the soldiers from enjoying their time even in the worst of the climate conditions. They wait for a good climate and a calm atmosphere from across the border to set up a beautiful jugaadu cricket pitch to play like Dhoni and Virat.
They also make sure to listen to every single second of the commentary when Indian cricket/hockey team is in play. No doubt, India vs Pakistan matches are never left to be left.
Soldiers are sent back on off after 3 months of serving, and all of them feel extremely bizarre after coming back from the wilderness to places having tall buildings and heavy population. They take a day or two to come back to their normal self and rest.(if these Ironmans feel like resting)
If you take into consideration the story of Major Saurabh Kaithat of Ladakh Scouts that is also similar to any other story for that matter, you will be shocked to know the answer. He says that ''it was a white-out for a whole 22 days.''
It is said that a snowstorm in Siachen can last ranging from some days to 4 odd weeks.
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Global warming led to the receding of 800 meters of a glacier over an eleven-year-period. The glacier-melting water then goes to the Nubra river in the Leh-Ladakh region that also is an iconic tourist spot.
Look, hating any country for any reason whatsoever is not good. It is not the common people of any country that are responsible for anything bad that has ever taken place. In 1947, both the countries got their independence in a matter of one day and both enjoyed the 16th of August 1947 in free air. Nobody had any negativity of bitterness for anyone in mind. So why can not we become same once again? Why this negativity? We are common men, we don't know any conflict, and we do not hate any religion. We understand the language of love and all we have is ''aman ki aasha.''
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With this thought, let us wish Pakistanis a Happy Independence Day.
If this question arises in your mind, then I would suggest you not to think of joining the Indian army for Indian army needs only those who are willing to give everything they have without hoping for anything in return. As a matter of fact, the soldiers who show that bravery to serve their nation are always taken care of by God and by their respective government.
Let us, however, make a promise today that we will all make at least one difference in our lifestyle to make our country better internally because out borders are obviously in safer hands with our Indian Army.
Let us wish each other a very happy Independence Day (15th August) by sharing the tough life of the Siachin Armymen with everyone we know.