Case I: HAZARDS OF HILLS
This case is based on an actual incident which took place in an Army Unit deployed in field area. A part of a Battery (about ¼ of an Artillery Regiment) was deployed in a snow bound high altitude area of Kashmir. This was the first time; an artillery unit was deployed in an area with roads and tracks still under development. Preparation of this area for such a development needed a lot of digging for guns, pits for ammunition storage, living place of the personnel, slit trenches and weapon pits for local defence against any possible enemy/terrorists’ attack on the position, place for storage of rations, cook-house and communication trenches, etc.
The total strength of the party deployed there was:
Officer - 1 (Second Lieutenant with about one year service)
Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) - 1]
Jawans – 40
The Battery Commander (BC) remained with the Regiment Headquarters at Srinagar (with the remaining part of the Battery) as per the orders of the commanding Officer. There was a vehicle with the part of the Battery which was deployed at high altitude to assist in the daily administration of the troops like collection of ration, stores for preparation of defences, water, and ferrying of personnel from one place to another. The vehicle could go only upto a limited number of places due to bad road conditions and steep gradients. Only one driver was kept for this vehicle to reduce administrative problems due to more number of personnel. The vehicle completed about 35 to 40 kms. of running daily in its routine commitments.
The part had just been inducted about two weeks back. The defences were being prepared which involved lot of effort in digging of hardened ground due to the cold winter months of November. The defence stores were to be collected, once the digging was complete, from another Engineering Unit located about 5 kms. to the rear. The roads were treacherous; with a number of stones and slides falling down occasionally during drizzle due to precipitation in atmosphere, there were steep gradients, narrow roads with sheer falls on one side due to the road having cut into the side of hills. The digging was complete by end November. In the month of December, snow fall at that location was expected any time, as it had already started snowing in the higher reaches and tops of mountains. The digging had been completed in a record time of two weeks. The party under the stewardship of the young officer had done a commendable job.
In the first week of December, the only driver of the vehicle reported pain in the chest and problem in breathing. He was evacuated by helicopter the next day with instructions to inform the unit to send another driver for the vehicle. It took about three days for any one to reach this area, with staying of two night’s enroute in order to acclimatize by stages. The detachment was to be without any driver for about three days. Another driver was detailed to proceed to this area, after having been medically examined and found fit. A day after the dispatch of the driver, the young officer with this party arrived in the unit and reported that the vehicle had fallen from a hill-side road and was completely damaged. The office was in a complete state of disarray and shock. What actually had happened goes something like this.
After the first driver of the vehicle was evacuated, the weather started turning bad and it seemed that it was going to snow that day. The officer realised that in case of snow fall all the efforts put in by the troops would go waste, if the dug-ins were not covered. Realising this, he borrowed a driver of an ambulance from a local medical unit to direct his vehicle for collection of defence stores. After the stores had been collected and dumped at the site of defences, the vehicle was being driven back to the party’s location. Before it could reach this...