New Delhi: As the border remains tense in eastern Ladakh, the Indian Army has stocked up on special clothing, diet, and shelter for the long haul to battle the harsh winter at heights exceeding 12,000 feet and temperature as extreme as minus 50 degrees Celsius.
The enhanced troop deployment is likely to continue for months, sources said, as there are enough supplies of high altitude equipment and gear that can last a year at least.
The force has stocked up these items for around 35,000 extra troops deployed at the forward locations.
Most of the friction points in Ladakh like Pangong Lake and Galwan Valley where the face-offs have happened are located 14,000 feet above sea level.
Further, local residents in Ladakh have volunteered to help the Indian Army to provide logistic support at the forward areas when and where required.
The force has incurred an estimated expenditure of around Rs 400 crore for providing special winter clothing to cater to the enhanced deployment. The cost per soldier for special clothing equipment to brave the harsh winter is around Rs 1 lakh.
The Special Clothing and Mountaineering Equipment (SCME) is provided to each soldier. The winter clothing and gear include special three-layered jackets and trousers, boots, snow goggles, facemasks, rucksacks, and others.
The SCME set also comprises snow clothing and equipment for survival, resuscitation, rescue, mountaineering climbing equipment, and special Arctic tents.
Temperature-controlled pre-fabricated huts are also provided. These can maintain the optimum temperature at the freezing heights where oxygen levels are also low, as in Ladakh.
Rations scaled to soldiers have been scientifically designed and evolved to provide adequate nutrients and to cater for the daily routine, training and for operating in different terrain conditions.
The special diet consists of high calorific and nutrient value items to offset the loss of appetite and reduced intake of food which soldiers suffer in such a climate A total of 33 groups of items are authorized daily in high altitude areas.
“The spirits of our soldiers are high. They are capable of serving at forbidding altitudes with scarce oxygen and in extremely cold temperatures, something that they have effortlessly done over the last many years on Siachen, and Kargil,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament on Thursday.
There are several friction areas in Eastern Ladakh including Gogra, Kongka La and North and South Banks of the Pangong Lake. He said that as of now, the Chinese side has mobilized a large number of troops and armaments along the Line of Actual Control as well as in the depth areas.
“Our armed forces have also made appropriate counter deployments in these areas to ensure that India’s borders are fully protected,” the minister said.