Securing India's border in extreme conditions requires - among other things - bravery, sacrifice and patriotism. The brave soldiers of Dogra Scouts lack none of these three as they patrol the border with China in far-flung areas of Himachal Pradesh at a giddying altitude of 14,000 feet.
The path less travelled on
Reaching Pooh - a small town in Kinnaur district in HP - is a massive task in itself. The last town of any significance before reaching the Dogra Scouts' base which is even higher, the road to Pooh is considered one of the deadliest. There is a constant threat of roads being washed away or the odd boulder hutling down at menacing speeds. And when winter beckons, expect the roads to slide under a deep blanket of snow completely. While Border Roads Organisation (BRO) does undertake regular repair works, the element of certainty is a scarcity.
From here and onwards towards Dogra Scouts' base, soldiers are seen at regular intervals to ensure that any unfortunate event can be averted.
Where the head is held high and the mind is without fear
Ordinary men won't usually dream of putting their life at risk to travel to far-flung places - let alone stay there for months. But then, soldiers of Dogra Scouts are no ordinary men. They are extraordinary warriors.
One look at the thoroughly-trained soldiers stationed at Dogra Scouts' base shows just why one requires enormous amounts of bravery and patriotism to battle the extremes of mother nature. Enviable energy and permanent passion reflect in their expressions and actions as soldiers here are regularly trained in ascending and descending steep mountains, constructing temporary bases on cliffs and on how to attack enemy intruders.
Mind over matter in battle against elements
While the high altitude in itself would make daily tasks an uphill struggle, soldiers of Dogra Scouts have to constantly bear the brunt of high wind, sub-zero temperatures and months and months of heavy snow. And under such circumstances, they routinely perform tasks that make them who they are - superheroes. Climb vertical cliffs? Done. Set up tents in almost inhospitable terrain? Done. Why, even scale Mount Everest? Done and dusted.
The valiant Dogra Scout daredevil knows no 'No.'
"In a month leading to winter, the temperature varies from four to five degree Celsius during the day to about minus eight to minus nine degree Celsius at night," says Subedar Major Pawan Singh. "In January and February, the temperature falls to about minus 18 degree Celsius. In forward posts where our soldiers are stationed, it even goes down to minus 22 degree Celsius.
Here in the Zanskar Range, life goes on regardless - courtesy special clothing and equipment. "Winds coming in from snow-clad mountains are especially dangerous for the human body and every person here needs to wear a number of specialised protective clothing including special face masks to protect oneself from chillblain," says Major Manvinder Deka.
And while staying quarters are heated using bukhari - a traditional space heater, soldiers in their free time indulge in recreational activities like gyming and enjoying music.
Line of duty
While far down below in the plains - where the country works, sleeps, laughs, cries and generally tries to make each day count, Dogra Scout warriors give their all to ensure that their fellow countrymen can indeed live a secure life. In doing so, they stare the enemy right in the face under extreme conditions - putting themselves in peril but not for once flinching. They deserve a salute and then some.
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