Too few life-saving kits for soldiers in J&K | india | Hindustan Times
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Too few life-saving kits for soldiers in J&K

Soldiers involved in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir are bleeding to death for want of life-saving kits to treat battlefield injuries. The Army has failed to equip tens of thousands of troops with an adequate number of frontline haemorrhage control kits to stop excessive bleeding from combat injuries. Rahul Singh reports.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2009 01:30 IST
Rahul Singh

Soldiers involved in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir are bleeding to death for want of life-saving kits to treat battlefield injuries.

The Army has failed to equip tens of thousands of troops with an adequate number of frontline haemorrhage control kits to stop excessive bleeding from combat injuries.

Official documents show that the Udhampur-based Northern Command, the nerve centre of the Army’s counter-insurgency operations, has ordered just 850 pouches of a granular haemostatic substance called QuikClot with proven clotting ability, in the last three years.

The Army had no budgetary provision even for the small number of kits bought. These were procured out of the Army Commander’s special financial powers. The price of QuikClot works out to Rs 3,640 per unit. It is a standard issue item for the US Marine Corps. American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq carry it as their preferred haemostatic agent.

“The army has failed to meet the urgent requirement of life-saving kits demanded by Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units. Haemorrhage is the leading cause of preventable death in combat,” said an officer from an RR unit, not authorised to speak to the media.

The Rashtriya Rifles forms the backbone of the army’s anti-insurgency operations.

At any given time, close to one lakh soldiers are directly engaged in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, Army sources said. The kits procured by the Army are hardly enough for them.

A senior officer in the Army headquarters said that these kits had been provided to regimental medical officers and nursing assistants who accompanied soldiers. But officers in Kashmir said this was only a makeshift arrangement. “The medics can’t be with you all the time. Soldiers have to be self sufficient,” said an officer.

Commanding officers realise they need to source haemostatic kits on their own to give soldiers the cutting edge of military medicine. Many Rashtriya Rifles units have begun diverting regimental funds, collected from profits made from canteen sales, to enable soldiers to rapidly treat multiple wound sites and various wound types with a single packet of material. The kit gives precious evacuation time to wounded soldiers before they can be treated at a hospital. The army has admitted that there is no substitute for QuikClot because of its exceptional haemorrhage-control features.

“We regularly send jawans to New Delhi to buy the kits from the only distributor in India. However, due to paucity of funds, we barely order two or three kits at a time. Ideally, a battalion should hold a stock of at least 100 kits at any given time,” said another Rashtriya Rifles officer.

Over the last two years, Rashtriya Rifles units have purchased around 1,500 kits on their own.

Army fatalities have averaged around 100 a year for the past several years.

“It is an effective non-surgical method to stop bleeding that cannot be controlled by ordinary gauze or the Rakshak bandages used by us. Every team that goes into an operation must carry it. We have saved many lives and many more could be saved if supplies improve,” said an army doctor posted in Kashmir.