Life of an Assistant Commandant in Indo-Tibetan Border Police
Avalanches, high-velocity storms, blizzards, and landslides, besides the hazards of high altitude and extreme cold, where the temperature dips up to -30°C, best describes the workplace in which the Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force (ITBP) operates. This force was so secret, that its existence was not disclosed for over 20 years after it came into existence following the Indo-China war in 1962. Since then, the ITBP troops guard every inch of the ‘Valley of Gods’, part of the Himalayas which falls on the Indian side of the international border. Leading the troops are Assistant Commandants (AC) recruited by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), through the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) examination.
‘The land is so barren and the passes so high that only the best of the friends and fiercest of enemies come by’, is a common saying at the forward posts at the Indo-China border.
Nature of work
ACs of ITBP are mainly deployed on Border Guarding Duties from Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh, covering a distance of 3,488 km of the Indo-China Border. “As an AC, you are mostly sent to border posts at the Himalayas. Most of the border posts are at an altitude ranging from 9,000 to 18,500 ft in the Western, Middle & Eastern sectors of the Indo-China border. Currently, ACs are also given the responsibility of leading troops on various anti-Naxal operations conducted in Naxal-affected states,” said a senior officer from ITBP.
ITBP is the only organisation in the world to venture in more than 200 successful mountaineering expeditions. “The job profile of an AC demands a candidate to have good physical endurance, as many adventure sports like mountaineering, rafting, and skiing, are a part of the job. Along with physical stamina, an AC should also posses the mental stamina to sustain in the isolated work environments,” further added the official.
In addition to above-mentioned responsibilities, ACs are also posted with Indian Embassies abroad. Officers of ITBP are also deployed for peacekeeping operations in countries like Angola, Namibia, Cambodia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Mozambique, and Kosovo, under the United Nations (UN) flag.
The ITBP has a vast presence in the Himalayas, and hence, soldiers of ITBP are aptly named as ‘Himveers’. There are certain border posts in the Himalayas where ITBP guards are the first line of defence. At some border posts, when the tension dissipates, a cricket bat replaces guns and the troops can be seen relaxing with a game of cricket. “Given the location and the terrain, soldiers are completely isolated from the rest of the world. Often the only point of contact with the family is a satellite phone,” said another Assistant Commandant of ITBP.
The total strength of the ITBP is around 70,000 to 80,000. This is a small number when compared to the strength of other paramilitary forces. “Due to the small size of the force and the shortage of officers, the scope of promotions in ITBP is the best when compared to the other paramilitary forces,” said an official of ITBP.
- Assistant Commandant (You land here after clearing the exam and the 54-week training)
- Deputy Commandant (After 6 years of service as an AC).
- After 11 years in Group-A service including 5-year service as Deputy Commandant, the officer can get a promotion to the rank of Second-in-Command.
- With 15-year Group-A (Class-I) service including 4 years as Second-in-Command, the officer becomes eligible to get promoted to the rank of Commandant.