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Siachen: A huge human cost for a piece of ice

Jan 15, 2014 09:42 PM IST India India
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If the Line Of Control (LoC) is tough, Siachen is only even more difficult. Cold, barren and hostile, living in Siachen isn't easy. But for the hundreds of Army men, braving the frigid climes is simply a way of life.

It's an irony that Siachen means "the valley of flowers". Nothing could be further from the truth.
With temperatures as low as minus 45 degrees Celsius, it takes a lot to last out here.

While the Indian Army did secure the world's highest battlefield back in 1984, its battle with nature is far more intense.

"Unfortunately literature on high altitude is very scant. Where in the world do you have so many people at such high altitude," said Officer-
in-charge Lt Colonel Anuj Chawla.

One wrong step and you could plunge into an ice crevasse. Chances of survival are zero. Training is intense - skills like crevasse crossing, ice climbing and rescue operations are a must. The
first rule - survive and then fight.

"When I came here for training, my head hurt. At times the oxygen availability also reduces," said one soldier. "We sometimes have trouble in breathing. Sometimes we have trouble in feeding
ourselves too," said another soldier.

Fuel and rations are often air dropped. India foots a daily bill of Rs 5 crore just to keep Siachen well supplied. Over 60,000 Army men serve the country at high altitude posts. Stationed away from their families, it's a cold and lonely tour of duty.

"There are many challenges. First one being hypoxia, what we call in layman's language as lack of oxygen and the second is extreme cold, hypothermia," Lt Chawla added.

A memorial here has names of over 800 men who lost their lives. Both India and Pakistan have lost around 3,000 men here. It's a huge human cost for a piece of ice.