GUWAHATI: Amidst troop mobilization along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Ladakh sector, the Indian Army is raising three companies of porters, comprising 1,800 local youths, in Arunachal Pradesh.
There is nothing strange in the drive that is conducted in collaboration with the state’s Labour Department but the timing of it this year – and the high number of vacancies advertised by the state government – assumes significance.
The porters are employed for six months on fixed daily remuneration and they are required to extend their service during winter. The onset of winter is nearly three months away. The employment usually takes place in August and September. The exact number of people employed last year was not known but some locals said it was a few hundred.
“For reasons I don’t know, they are heavily being employed this year,” a government official in the state told this newspaper.
Chief Minister Pema Khandu, who attended the “porter raising ceremony” at Sapper in West Kameng district on Friday, motivated the hundreds of the youth who had turned up. He hailed them for their “service to the nation”.
“This is a great time for our unemployed youth to showcase their unflinching patriotism by working alongside the brave Indian Army. This opportunity offers you not only employment but also the best chance to serve the nation,” he said addressing the ceremony.
An NGO, Yuva Arunachal, had mobilized the youth from all over the state. To be employed within this month, they will form the three porter companies in the Kameng sector, of which the border town of Tawang is strategic for India. China claims Tawang and vast swathes of Arunachal as parts of its southern Tibet region.
The Auxiliary Labour Corps or porters – the remnant of the British Raj – are still indispensable in the mountainous Arunachal. Given the rugged and near inaccessible terrain, the porters are employed to transport materials for the Army. Their regular appointment was stopped after Arunachal had become a full-fledged state in 1987.
The porters are entitled to leave and healthcare facilities and their lives are insured by state authorities during the period of service.
“They extend logistical support on a temporary basis and are treated like soldiers. They stay with the troops and dine with them. Being locals, they are adapted to the climate and they know the terrain. They are more than useful,” an Army officer said.