The Indian Army has control of the Siachen Glacier since 1984. Since then the residents of the surrounding villages in the picturesque Nubra Valley are employed as porters by the army.
Their job is to carry items upto 20 kg to army posts on the glacier, making sure that the stock is not in any shortage, maintaining kerosene reserves, checking and fixing ropes and ladders to assist soldiers in climbing the glacier and carrying the ice that soldiers melt into water.
These porters are very helpful to the soldiers in the challenging weather with temperatures dropping upto 40 degree Celsius in negative.
Stanzin Padma is a 31-year-old former porter who rescued the lives of two soldiers during his role as a porter. He also retrieved the body of dead soldiers and fellow porters during his career. The Union Ministry has awarded him a Jeevan Raksha Padak in 2014 for his courage and saving lives even when he was injured himself.
Stanzin was born in Phukpochey village. It is near the hot water springs of Panamik in Nubra Valley, Ladakh. He grew up in a humble farming household. 14 years ago, he Completed his high school from the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya in Leh. In 2006, he first worked as a part-time porter for the Indian Army in Siachen, while also working as a tourist guide for trekkers to Markha Valley and Zanskar.
Stanzin told in a conversation that even though both his parents were farmers, his father would occasionally take up work as a porter in Siachen as well. His family was undergoing some financial troubles, so he felt that it was best that he should contribute by working as a porter. However, He began regularly working with the Indian Army from 2008 to 2016.
He said that most of the youth work as porters in this region to sustain their lives. Many have lost their lives too.
The porters are counted as casual paid labourers (CPL) and are paid a daily wage according to their grade. There are about 100 posts on the glacier that are classified into five classes based on their altitude and the risks involved in serving these classes.
Those who serve at higher posts are paid an estimate of Rs 857 per day, while those who serve at the base camp are paid Rs 694 per day. Since 2017, these figures are constant.