Amlighat (South Tripura), Nov 25: The 135th battalion of the BSF has won a prestigious award - the General Choudhury Trophy - this year for the second time for its outstanding contribution in border management in the remote areas of Tripura.
The battalion was the first to be selected for the trophy in the Northeastern region following three years of untiring efforts.
A five-member high-level team, comprising defence experts of the country, had carried out year-long performance review exercise among 157 battalions across the country and finally announced the trophy for 2006-07 last week in favour of the battalion.
Talking to newspersons here today, BSF's 135th battalion Commandant M L Gorge said 1,171 jawans, deployed across 30 Border Outposts (BOPs) in the most interior locations, had been managing the 53.5 km-long border along India and Bangladesh, which was declared as highly Malaria Endemic zone - one of the five notified Plasmodium Falciparum (PF) Malaria zones in the world.
''Our troops remain outdoors for 15 to 16 hours on an average, guarding the most inhospitable terrains, braving torrential rains, snakes and a wide spectrum of other poisonous insects, wild animals and most of all mosquitoes as PF Malaria is rampant in the sector,'' Mr George said.
The troops were also deployed opposite the infamous Chittagong Hill tracts and Khagracheri district of Bangladesh - the harbour of Northeastern militant outfits, besides being the cradle of the historical Chakma problem.
The 135th battalion was established in 1991 when the western border of the country was under serious threat from Pakistan while in 1994, the battalion was awarded the General Choudhury Trophy for the first time for its excellent performance in the Faridabad sector of Punjab.
However, with a troubled situation arising in the southern border of Tripura, where Bangladesh had objected to India drawing water from the bordering Feni river, the only riverine border in Eastern India for irrigation purposes, the 135th batallion was deployed to contain the situation, Mr George said.
Enduring the thick forests, heavy incessant rains for almost eight months a year, poor road conditions, lack of basic infrastructure, non-availability of food items, including fruits, vegetables and rations, exorbitant prices and worst of all PF Malaria, the brave sentinels of the borders have withstood all tests and secured our borders.
Despite a number of odds, the jawans have been guarding the border with Hand Held Thermal images, Night Vision Devices, BFSR, alarm systems, Mr George said, who left for New Delhi to receive the award this morning.
He pointed out that policing or guarding of an area was much easier than guarding the linear international border which requires physical presence everywhere.
Meanwhile, Commanding Officer Harmindarpal, posted at the most backward BOP Bhangamura, only half a kilometre away from the Chittagong Hill tracts, said Tripura, as a whole, was declared as Hyper Endemic Malaria Zone, but South Tripura, in particular, was one of the most of Malaria-prone and drug resistant areas. Out of the four Malaria species, Plasmodium Vivax (PV) and Plasmodium Falciparum (PF) were highly fatal species and uncontrolled in the sector, which caused swift death if not treated promptly and effectively, since the PF parasite could cross the blood-brain barrier very fast, he pointed out.
To overcome this problem, every battalion was provided with around eight to ten small medical centres with indoor facilities at various BOPs where all required medicines of Malaria as well as other essential medicines with rapid diagnostic kits were provided and about 1,667 malaria cases were identified so far in the area.
Mr Harmindarpal, however, underlined that though the BSF was trying its best to prevent and treat the malaria cases, it was still facing a lot of difficulties owing to logistic problems.
Besides spraying DDT and other insecticides, the battalion had been using mosquito repellant creams and coils, wearing face masks as well as hand gloves all the time, impregnations of mosquito nets by mosquito repellant chemicals, including Pyrethrum, and using Chemo prophylactic medicines to prevent the clinical attack of malaria, Mr Harmindarpal added.