The tragic death of 10 soldiers posted on the Siachen Glacier has renewed debate on the harsh climatic conditions in such high altitudes and the related health effects. The Indian Soldiers posted on the Siachen Glacier are paid a special allowance of Rs 14,000 per month. The 7th Pay commission has proposed an increase of 50% in this allowance. Soldiers at such high altitudes require 55 items out of which 20 are imported.
The Indian troops have been deployed at Siachen Glacier at an altitude of about 20,000 feet for decades to protect the borders. The soldiers brave the harshest climatic conditions to guard the strategic border post. Such harsh conditions result in multiple health related issues. As per a DRDO bulletin, high altitude is characterized by hypoxic environment, cold and ultraviolet (UV) radiations, which causes adverse effect on work efficiency and cognitive functions of an individual along with acute mountain sickness, and sometimes debilitating frostbite or life threatening diseases like high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) and cerebral edema (HACE). The Life Sciences wing of DRDO is focused on developing diagnostic, preventive & treatment protocols for acute mountains sickness, HAPE and other such conditions faced by soldiers posted on the glacier.
The Siachen Allowance
The Indian Army extends various types of allowances to the soldiers. They are also paid a Siachen Glacier Allowance. Officers/Sepoys posted to the Siachen Glacier are paid a special monthly allowance apart from their monthly salary. The current Siachen allowance for Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) and others is Rs 14,000 per month. The Seventh Pay Commission has proposed to increase this amount to Rs 21,000 per month.
Number of Deaths
More soldiers died from the threat of the harsh climatic conditions and accidents related to that than the enemy bullet. A total of 879 soldiers have died on the Siachen Glacier since 1984 till date due to climatic conditions, environmental and other factors. 33 of them are Officers, 55 of them are JCOs and the rest of 791 are Sepoys/Jawans.
Food & Clothing
Various wings of the DRDO like the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) and Defence Food Research Laboratory (DFRL) produce & supply food for soldiers posted on high altitudes like Siachen. These wings of the DRDO develop various food materials suitable to Siachen and other such high altitude regions.
The soldiers posted on the Siachen Glacier and other such high altitude areas require 55 items of clothing and mountaineering equipment. Out of these, 20 items are imported. The Indian Army is authorized to maintain two sets of special clothing and mountaineering equipment for Siachen and High Altitude areas. Out of these, one set is authorized to the troops in the field formations and the second set is maintained as reserve. The items are imported from various countries like Switzerland, Canada, Italy, Singapore, Austria, France, Norway, United Kingdom, Poland, Sweden, Australia and United States of America.
Items used by the soldiers include the following. The Army needs about 27000 sets of these items each year.
High Altitude Parachutes
Promoting Indigenous Production
The government takes steps for up gradation and search for newer items which will save lives and increase the combat efficiency of troops deployed in areas like Siachen. To promote indigenous production clothing and other material, a seminar with Indian Technical Textile Association was held in 2015 followed up by trial of items in Siachen Glacier and sharing of trial reports with Indian Industry for further improvement to meet the stringent requirements of such areas.
Expenditure on Import of various Items
More than 7500 crore rupees were spent in importing such equipment in the last 4 years.
Financial Year Budget Estimates Expenditure in Crores
2012-2013 2300.00 2280.54
2013-2014 2023.34 1919.31
2014-2015 2574.31 2366.59
2015-2016 3332.00 938.54 (till Dec 2015)