As the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC) with China continues to be grim, the Indian Army has started stocking up for a long haul in eastern Ladakh. The army is maintaining an inventory of special clothing, diet and makeshift shelters, anticipating the standoff with the Chinese army (PLA) to prolong through the harsh winter, at times leading to violent conflicts, at heights exceeding 3,658 m and temperature as extreme as minus 50°C.
The enhanced troop deployment is likely to continue for months, sources said. There are, of course, enough supplies of high altitude equipment and gear that can last a year at least.
The force has stocked up these items for around 35,000 additional soldiers deployed at the forward locations. Most of the friction points in Ladakh like Pangong Tso and Galwan Valley, where the face-offs have happened, are located 4,267 m above sea level. Further, local residents in Ladakh have volunteered to help the Indian Army to provide logistic support at the forward areas when and where required.
The force has incurred an estimated expenditure of around Rs 400 crore for providing special winter clothing to cater to the enhanced deployment. The cost per soldier for special clothing equipment to brave the harsh winter is around Rs 1 lakh.
To meet the clothing and sheltering requirements for operations in these areas, the Indian Army provides Special Clothing and Mountaineering Equipment (SCME) at a cost of around Rs 1 lakh per set to each soldier.
The winter clothing and gear comprise special three-layered jackets and trousers, boots, snow goggles, facemasks, rucksacks and others.
The SCME set contains snow clothing and equipment for survival, resuscitation, rescue, mountaineering equipment and tents as well.
The Indian Army provides the troops temperature-controlled special tents and pre-fabricated huts too. These can maintain the optimum temperature at the freezing heights where oxygen levels are also low, as in Ladakh.
The department concerned of the Indian Army plans rations scaled to soldiers scientifically to provide adequate nutrients and to cater for the daily routine, training and for operating in different terrain conditions.
The scientifically-formulated special diet consists of high calorific and nutrient value items to offset the loss of appetite and reduced intake of food which soldiers suffer in such a climate. A total of 33 groups of items are authorised daily in high altitude areas.
Furthermore, there are items of rations not listed in the scale of rations as demanded by units to meet the taste of troops that can be issued post sanction.