Meet the Award Winning Porter from Ladakh Who Has Been Helping Indian Army Jawans for 8 Years
Indian soldiers patrol near the Siachen Glacier. (PTI file photo)
Stanzin is the recipient of the Jeevan Raksha Padak, an award given by the Union Home Minister “for courage and promptitude in saving life under circumstances of grave bodily injury to the rescuer”, in 2014.
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It is not an easy job for the Indian Army to guard the country's borders at Siachen Glacier at an altitude of 22,000 feet where temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius. However, with the help of the local residents of the surrounding villages in the picturesque Nubra Valley, the Indian Army's work gets a little easier.
The local residents have been employed as porters, who carry loads upto 20 kilograms to army posts on the Siachen glacier, stocking the posts with necessary provisions and maintaining kerosene reserves. They also fix ropes and ladders to assist soldiers in climbing the glacier and dig out the ice that melt into water.
One such porter happens to be 31-year-old Stanzin Padma, who not only saved two Indian Army jawans but also retrieved the bodies of deceased soldiers and fellow porters during his decade-long stint. Stanzin is the recipient of the Jeevan Raksha Padak, an award given by the Union Home Minister “for courage and promptitude in saving life under circumstances of grave bodily injury to the rescuer”, in 2014.
He was born in Phukpochey village near the hot water springs of Panamik in Nubra Valley, Ladakh. Growing up in a humble farming household, Stanzin completed his high school from the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Leh 14 years ago. He then worked as a part-time porter for the Indian Army in Siachen in 2006, and also worked as a tourist guide for trekkers to Markha Valley and Zanskar.
Although his parents were farmers, his father occasionally worked as a porter in Siachen as well.
Speaking to The Better India, Stanzin said that the reason he took up work as a porter was because his family was undergoing some financial troubles, and instead of adding to their burden, he felt it was best that he contributed. From 2008 onwards, however, he began regularly working with the Indian Army until 2016.
He further told the online portal that most youths in this region find work as porters on the Siachen glacier, but unfortunately, many have lost their lives. During rescue missions, the experienced porters are given the opportunity when others have failed, or it’s deemed ‘too late’.
The Better India reports that porters are deemed as casual paid labourers (CPL) and are paid a daily wage according to the grade of the post. There are about 100 posts on the glacier that are classified into five grades based on the altitude and the risks involved in serving there. The maximum pay is of Rs 857 per day at higher posts, while those serving at the base camp are paid Rs 694 per day.
The porters can only work for three months at a stretch, considering the ruthless weather conditions, avalanches, crevasse and the threat of shifting ice. Since porters are eligible to make claims for permanent positions and pay after working for 90 consecutive days, the Army sends these porters in cycles of 89 days.
Stanzin himself has had times when after working for 89 days, he comes down for a couple of days, gets a thorough medical check-up at the local government hospital and then climbs back up as soon as possible.