Khardung (Leh), Dec.25: Many of us find it difficult to drive along mountain roads in cold weather. But give a thought to those who are engaged in building and maintaining them – the men of the Border Roads Organisation.
The Border Roads Organisation, manned by the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army, have constructed roads along the border, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir and in the north-east for over four decades.
One of the toughest assignments they have had had is the construction of the road from Srinagar to Leh and beyond to the India-China Border. They constructed the road to Khardung La at an altitude of over 5,600 metres (18,300 feet) above sea-level.
The road is the second highest motorable point on earth. While the road was built decades ago, the Border Roads Organisation has to maintain it to keep it motorable for the Army convoys, engaged in transporting supplies to our troops in Siachen.
The work, at times, involves clearing 12 feet high snow layers
The men of the Border Roads have to clear the road, with the help of dozers and shovels.
"From December onwards this place witnesses heavy snowfall. The roads here are blocked by snow. Hence, to clear the roads and to make them commutable, the Army has deployed dozers at every kilometre,” said Sepoy Ram Kaval Yadav of Border Road Organisation.
“If a vehicle is blocked anywhere, dozers rushes for help. We have to be ready all the 24 hours. " Yadav added.
Considering the strategic significance of the Khardung La, the BRO operates a vital maintenance centre there alongside link posts and pickets of other Indian Army units.
"One has to warm his body by gas stove or bonfire. If a vehicle has a flat tyre, a dozer is needed to push the vehicle," said Naik R. Sunil of BRO, posted at Khardung La.
Iron chains are to be wrapped around the tyres of the vehicles to prevent sliding or skidding over the slick snow. The Border Roads men, both combatants and civilian workers, wear clothes that can withstand snowy weather.
"When we leave for our duty, our Commanding Officer ensures that we have snow clothing, chains and other things which are needed to commute over these snow-covered roads," said Lance Naik P. K. Rai of the Border Road Organisation.
The road work at Khardung La Pass commenced in the mid 60s and was almost ready by 1976 when the BRO (Border Roads Organisation) started to be known as GREF (General Reserve Engineering Force).
However, it was opened to other motor vehicles in 1988. Until then only the Indian Army convoys and government vehicles were permitted to traverse this route.
Khardung La (la means pass in Tibetan) is the gateway to the Shyok and Nubra Valleys which further lead Karakoram heights and also the Siachen Glacier where the Indian army guards the frontier at minus 40 degrees Celsius temperature. (ANI)