Special areas such as the Siachen glacier “do not suffer from any shortage of funds”, and whenever required, funds are made available to cater to all requirements and exigencies, Army sources said on Monday, referring to a recent report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), which flagged deficiencies in clothing, equipment and rations to soldiers on the world’s highest battlefield.
“Presently, each soldier, prior to his induction to the Siachen glacier, is kitted with special clothing equipment worth over ₹1 lakh, along with auxiliary, medical and mountaineering equipment worth an additional ₹1.5 lakh,” a source said, while stating that there were no international benchmark standards for war fighting equipment for troop deployment in the glacier, and the Army conducted stringent field trials under actual operational conditions to clear each piece of clothing and equipment based on suitability.
The CAG, in a report tabled in the Parliament last week, had pulled up the Army for deficiencies in provisioning of special clothing, rations and housing for troops on the Siachen glacier for the audit period 2015-16 to 2017-18. According to the report, there was a critical shortage of snow goggles ranging from 62% to 98%, and troops were not issued “multi-purpose boots” from November 2015 to September 2016, leaving them to resort to recycling of available boots.
‘Comfort of troops’
On clothing and equipment, the source said that there was “no standard scaling of equipment” used in Siachen and procurement was done keeping in mind the comfort of the troops and the gravity of the situation. “The government has authorised a special scale of rations to all troops who are deployed above 12,000 ft. The government has also authorised procurement substitutes in accordance with the preference of the troops on a cost-to-cost basis,” the source said on the subject of rations, adding that, till date, the supply of rations had never been delayed or denied.
In addition, multiple factors like calorific, nutritional and medicinal requirements, and the taste and palate preference of troops of various ethnicities and regional composition, were kept in mind to overcome “anorexia syndrome”, a condition in which personnel were unable to consume food due to loss of appetite, the source stated.
On the calorific value of the rations also evaluated by the CAG, Army sources referred to an extensive study by the Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences (DIPAS) undertaken from 2013 to 2016, on the nutritional and physiological aspects of the ration scales for troops deployed above 12,000 ft., according to which whereas the energy expenditure was 4,270 Kcal, the total energy intake from the then provided rations was 5,350 Kcal.
On the special rations authorised for troops in high altitude areas to meet their daily energy requirements, the Central auditor had observed that substitutes in lieu of scaled items were authorised on a “cost to cost” basis, which resulted in the supply of a reduced quantity of substitutes that “compromised the calorie intake of the troops by as high as 82%”.