Pat on the back for Himalayan rescue volunteers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 26 April 2022

Pat on the back for Himalayan rescue volunteers

Defence minister felicitates civilian non-profit outfit for saving army lives through avalanche rescue and training


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 26th Apr 22


Wherever there are major mountain ranges, which invite people to ascend them for adventure, sport or military purposes, there are also locals who form highly skilled teams to rescue adventurers who land in trouble.


In the French Alps around Chamonix, France, the so-called Peleton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHMP) is the busiest and perhaps the most highly skilled mountain rescue team in the world. PGHM employs around 250 rescue specialists, with each unit having access to helicopter transport and medical support,


An even harsher environment is faced by the Indian Army, which guards thousands of kilometres of Himalayan frontier but, until 2016, relied for high-altitude knowhow mainly on its vast experience in operating in altitudes above 18,000-20,000 feet in legendary battlefields like the Saltoro Ridge that towers above the Siachen Glacier.


In addition, the Defence R&D Organisation runs a laboratory that studies the high-altitude environment. Named the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE), it is located near Manali and has conducted decades of valuable research on avalanches – one of the biggest high-altitude killers in which tens of thousands of tonnes of snow and ice hurtle down the mountain, obliterating everything in its path.


Now, the army is also assisted by a team of experienced civilian climbers called the Tiranga Mountain Rescue (TMR). Founded by Hemant Sachdev in 2016, TMR is a non-profit organisation that is affiliated with the Indian Army. 


TMR provides multiple teams of highly motivated and qualified avalanche rescue professionals who are deployed in snow bound and difficult areas during the winter season. TMR teams have been instrumental in providing dedicated avalanche rescue and mountain craft training to Indian Army personnel.


On Tuesday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recognized the services rendered by TMR, when he interacted with a TMR mountain rescue team in New Delhi. Rajnath Singh was briefed on the activities of TMR and the defence minister commended TMR for its work in saving the lives of soldiers from deadly threats like avalanches and for raising awareness and training soldiers deployed in super-high altitudes. 


Calling the TMR a source of strength for soldiers deployed in avalanche-prone areas, the defence minister appreciated the fact that there had been no army casualties in the locations where TMR is deployed. 


The defence minister stressed that TMR has a big responsibility on their shoulders as avalanches are likely to increase in the coming days due to climate change.


Rajnath Singh described the work being carried out by TMR as a shining example of partnership between the Government and civil society. He emphasised that a Nation moves forward on the path of development only when the government and civil society work together. “Government and civil society are the wheels on which the country can achieve the goal of all-round sustainable development,” he said. 


The chief-designate of the army, Lieutenant General Manoj Pande, the Director General of Military Operations, Lieutenant General BS Raju and other senior military officials were also present when Rajnath Singh felicitated the TMR.

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