The Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) that guards the LAC with China has sought from the government a continued deployment of its troops in internal security duties so that it can give a “healthy break” to its personnel who man high-altitude icy locations, leading to various health issues among them, official sources said.
The force put across this point recently before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs and the Home Ministry in the wake of the Centre mulling over an “ambitious” proposal to gradually remove border guarding forces from security duties in the hinterland.
Sources said the border guarding force has informed the parliamentarians that owing to its primary task of protecting the high-altitude icy frontiers with very harsh weather conditions, it would prefer to be included in the internal security duties across the country so that its personnel “can be rotated between the hard deployment along the LAC and the normal plains”.
According to the sources, the ITBP has requested the continuation of deployment in the ratio of 60:40 in favour of the LAC, as this allows rotation of the troops, who face very harsh, sub-zero and hard climatic and terrain conditions along the front. Most of the posts of the mountain warfare-trained ITBP are located between 9,000 feet and 18,700 feet in the western, middle and eastern sectors of the 3,488-km-long LAC that runs from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.
The government had recently begun working on a plan to gradually decrease the role of the three border guarding forces, the ITBP, the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in internal security duties with an aim to further strengthen the frontiers’ security.
While the BSF is tasked with guarding the sensitive international borders (IB) with Pakistan and Bangladesh, the ITBP mans the LAC with China and the SSB guards the open Indian fronts with Nepal and Bhutan.