New Delhi March 22: The Army has implemented a permanent policy for recruitment of porters who form the logistic backbone for troops deployed on the Line of Control (LoC) facing Pakistan and Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. Till now, the porters were hired on ad hoc basis and salaries also varied without benefits. The new policy provides fixed wages, working hours and provision of medical assistance and insurance cover in case of injury or death.
This policy has come about following a Supreme Court directive last year asking the Army to frame a formal recruitment and service rule policy for porters. The Army annually hires 10,000 to 12,000 porters on a temporary basis for a period of five to six months for Northern Command alone responsible for guarding the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir and LAC in Ladakh. The number of porters in Eastern Command, which takes care of LAC, is somewhat less than Northern Command, officials said here on Wednesday.
Porters ferry rations and ammunition for troops in rugged and tough terrain apart from clearing snow from roads and army posts, they said adding the porters form an integral part of the Army for operational preparedness and efficiency.
Giving details of the policy, they said the Northern Command alone spends more than Rs240 crores in terms of wages and other expenses for porters. Moreover, the funds spent by the Army for this purpose helps in sustaining the local economy in inaccessible areas.
The porters are hired through district labour office of State Governments for a period of six months from May to December end before snow makes it difficult to work in harsh climate. Earlier, the wages were not stipulated and there were no benefits like medical and insurance cover.
Now, the porters are entitled to Rs18,000 per month and they work for six days a week, officials said adding national holidays are treated as paid holiday. Moreover, the maximum load to be carried by the porters is fixed at 20 kgs. All male citizens of India besides domicile of Nepal and Bhutan in the age bracket 18-50 years are eligible for the post of seasonal porters.
Porters are now also entitled to benefits like medical facilities during the period of engagement and insurance cover under Prime Minister Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana(PMJJBY). Moreover, they can now access canteen services of the Army with a limit of Rs1,000 per month. The canteens provide subsidised rations and other items.