There is a flip side to everything. Even peace.
The ITBP believes it is seeing far too much of peace than it needs to ensure that its jawans are fighting fit.
At heights of 18,000 feet and temperatures that drop to minus 40 degree Celsius, inclement weather is the only enemy that ITBP personnel had to fight for decades. “It is a tough call surviving the treacherous weather but the jawans need to see some action too,” an ITBP officer told the Hindustan Times on Monday.
There has hardly been any action on the 3,488-km-stretch of the Sino-India border that the ITBP has been guarding since the 1962 war. “It is not like the Indo-Pak or Indo-Bangla border. It is a difficult border but a quiet one,” said Director-General VK Joshi.
And that, officers said, had its set of problems. For example, having jawans who may not have seen live action. At the unit level, ITBP officers say they have more firepower than even army infantry units, but they hardly have occasions to utilise and hone the skills that training sessions and mock drills impart.
“There is a world of difference in fighting mock battles and live action where the bullets are aimed at you,” an officer said. The mock sessions can teach the fighting skills, fighting when bullets are whizzing past requires the ability to conquer fear.
Joshi acknowledged the lack of adequate options for his men to see action did bother him too. At this rate, ITBP officers said the force just would not have people in a decade or two who would have been seen action.
The ITBP was deployed in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir for nearly a decade, which exposed them to the action. But they were pulled out last year when the government, implementing the one border-one force plan, sent the ITBP men back to the Sino-India border.
Joshi has been nudging the Union home ministry to allow his men to fight the Naxalites. As part of the ITBP proposal to add 22 battalions to its existing strength of 25 battalions – nearly 1,200 personnel make up a battalion – Joshi has suggested that the government consider deploying its guerrillas in dense forests of states like Chhattisgarh to counter the red terror.
ITBP officers indicate a stint in the plains – even in conditions considered harsh by normal standards – would be a change for the better for its jawans who spend most of their working years at isolated border outposts.
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