Pat on the back for Himalayan rescue volunteers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla

Defense minister praises non-profit civil outfit for saving army lives through avalanche rescue and trainingg

By Vikas Gupta

Defence News of India, 26 Apr 22

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

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

The Indian Army faces an even tougher environment, guarding thousands of miles of Himalayan border but, until 2016, relied for its high-altitude know-how mainly on its vast experience of operations at altitudes above 18,000-20,000 feet in legendary battlefields like Saltoro. Ridge that dominates the Siachen glacier.

Additionally, the Defense R&D Organization operates 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 into avalanches – one of the greatest high altitude killers in which tens of thousands of tons of snow and ice rush down the mountain, erasing everything in its path.

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

TMR provides several teams of highly motivated and qualified avalanche rescue professionals who are deployed in snowy 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, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh acknowledged the services rendered by TMR, when he interacted with a TMR mountain rescue team in New Delhi. Rajnath Singh was briefed on TMR’s activities and the Minister of Defense commended TMR for their work in saving the lives of soldiers from deadly threats like avalanches and in sensitizing and training soldiers deployed at very high altitudes.

Calling the TMR a source of strength for soldiers deployed in avalanche-prone areas, the Minister of Defense appreciated the fact that there were no military casualties in places where the TMR is deployed.

The Minister of Defense stressed that TMR has a big responsibility on its shoulders as avalanches are likely to increase in the coming days due to climate change.

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

Army Chief Designate Lt. Gen. Manoj Pande, Director General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. BS Raju and other senior military officials were also present when Rajnath Singh congratulated the TMR.