New Delhi: The Army lost 163 personnel deployed at the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield, during the last 10 years, according to details provided by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Six officers were among the army personnel who lost their lives while guarding the glacier which is at an altitude of above 20,000 ft.
Sitharaman gave year-wise details on the deaths in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha.
The Siachen Glacier in the Karakorum range is known as the highest militarised zone in the world where the soldiers have to battle frostbite and high winds.
Avalanches and landslides are common at the glacier during the winter and temperatures can drop to as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius
India and Pakistan started deploying troops at the strategically key glacier in 1984.
Sitharaman said nine army men lost their lives in 2008 followed by 13 in 2009, 50 in 2010 and 24 in 2011. Twelve army men had died in 2012, 11 in 2013 and eight in 2014.
The number of deaths in 2015 was 11 while it was 20 and five in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
“Indian Army soldiers deployed in extremely harsh terrain and weather conditions are suitably equipped and properly trained to undertake operational challenges and carry out their mandated tasks,” Sitharaman said.
Replying to a separate question on whether the Sahayak system in the Army has been discontinued in peace stations, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said no such decision has been taken.
“A Sahayak in the Indian Army has clearly defined military duties and forms an integral part of the organisational structure of a unit and has specific functions during war and peace,” he said.
Under the Sahayak or buddy system a solider is attached to officers. Sahayaks are soldiers and their duties include protecting the officers, maintaining their weapons and equipment and helping them in carrying out their responsibilities.
To another question, Bhamre said 33 ships and submarines are presently being constructed at various Indian shipyards for the Indian Navy.