The life of an Indian Army soldier comes cheap. The US-led coalition forces lost just around 150 personnel during the recent Iraq operations. In sharp contrast, and without going to war, almost 2,000 Indian Army soldiers were killed or wounded during the 10-month forward deployment along the Indo-Pak border in 2000.
“What else do you expect? We have to soldier on without even basic necessities like decent helmets, proper webbing or bullet-proof jackets. Many accidents during the mobilisation were due to the poor quality of mines and fuses,” retorted an angry young Major.
Usually extremely tight-lipped about casualty figures, the defence ministry had to disclose them in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday in response to a question. “The number of Army personnel killed or wounded in Jammu and Kashmir and the western sector during the mobilisation, Operation Parakram, from December 19, 2001 to October 16, 2002, was 1,874,” said Defence Minister George Fernandes. This, by any benchmark, is a truly staggering figure for a 10-month period, even if the counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir are taken into account.