Indian Army soldiers deployed in Siachen, Ladakh and Dokalam are struggling with the shortage of essential items like winter clothing, snow goggles, multi-purpose boots and most importantly, ration.
According to a report in ‘The Times of India’, the Auditor General of India, the CAG has said that the Indian Army soldiers are not even getting food as per the requirements of the challenging terrain.
Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported in December 2019, a report of the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had emerged which highlighted the grim realities that Indian troops encounter while serving in Siachen and Ladakh.
The Indian Army troops, as per CAG, do not have snow glasses and multi-purpose boots to wear and are even deprived of the sanctioned daily consumption of food. The CAG tabled the report on Union Government (Defence Services)-Army in the Rajya Sabha but failed to lay it in the Lok Sabha. News agency IANS, quoting sources in the Rajya Sabha, reports that the audit highlights the condition of Indian Army in high altitude areas.
According to the CAG report, the troops stationed at high altitude areas are given old versions of face masks, jackets and sleeping bags. It says the calorie intake of the troops is compromised as high as 82%. The shortage of snow goggles—between 62 per cent and 98 per cent—exposes soldiers’ faces and eyes to extreme weather, as per the report.
“There was a critical shortage of snow goggles ranging from 62% to 98%. The troops were not issued ‘multi-purpose boots’ from November 2015 to September 2016 and had to resort to recycling of available boots,” the statement said.
“Further, old versions of items such as face mask, jacket and sleeping bags were procured which deprived the troops from the benefits of using improved products,” it said, adding that the lack of research and development by the defence laboratory led to continued dependence on import.
Troops stationed in high altitudes were also supplied reduced quantity of substitutes instead of the “special scales of ration” authorized to meet their daily energy requirements. “This compromised the calorie intake of the troops by as high as 82%,” the CAG statement said. “At (the Indian Army’s) Leh station, in one instance it was noticed that the special ration items were shown as issued to troops for consumption without their actual receipt,” the CAG report found, the statement said.
Improvements to the housing conditions of troops in high altitude area were executed “in an ad-hoc manner,” the statement said. “In the first two phases of the Pilot project, extensive summer/winter trials were conducted. The third phase constituted a confirmatory trial, at a cost of Rs63.65 crore. This was avoidable since the first two phases were exhaustive.
Further, the sanction by the competent authority for the main project was not obtained. Handing over assets created under pilot project to the units got delayed much beyond the stipulated time frame, depriving users of resources which were already scant in challenging climatic conditions. There were discrepancies between the assets shown in Numerical Asset Register and assets on the ground,” it added.
Both India and Pakistan, which claim the Kashmir region in full, have deployed troops at Siachen. Temperatures fall to 60 degrees below zero, and sudden blizzards bury field artillery in minutes. Only 10 per cent of oxygen is available in Siachen than it is in plains.
Snowstorms on the Siachen glacier can last for as long as 3 weeks where winds can touch speeds of 100 mph in no time. Annual snowfall in Siachen can be well over 3 dozen feet. Soldiers are at the risk of getting frostbite if their bare skin touches any metal object for more than 15 seconds. Fainting spells and pounding headaches are frequent.