Malaria and snakebites pose a bigger threat than insurgents and smugglers to the Border Security Force (BSF) troopers posted along Tripura's border with Bangladesh.
"Our boys are now battling malaria and snakebites with the twin menace turning out to be our biggest enemies in the border areas," said J.A. Khan, BSF's Tripura frontier inspector general.
Eight BSF personnel died of malaria last year, while seven have died so far this year. No one was killed by insurgents last year, while two have been killed so far this year.
More than 3,000 BSF troopers posted along the 856-km-long Tripura-Bangladesh border have already been hit by malaria this year -- the number of such cases last year was a staggering 11,652.
"It is mandatory for all those posted in the border to carry mosquito repellent creams, besides wearing face masks and gloves all the time," Harminder Pal, a BSF commander, said here at Amlighat, a BSF post along the Bangladesh border.
Along the most inaccessible stretches, where even the food supplies have to be air dropped, cerebral malaria is the disease BSF troopers fear most.
"Our troops remain out for 15 to 16 hours on an average for guarding the borders, bracing inhospitable terrains, deadly and poisonous snakes and other venomous insects, wild animals, besides all types of mosquitoes," Pal said.
The BSF has set up round-the-clock medical facilities with at least 10 small health centres for each battalion with anti-malaria drugs and diagnostic kits.
The 135th battalion of BSF, deployed in the malaria-prone south Tripura, was chosen as the best battalion among 157 battalions across the country this year.
"Considering operational and management performance, the battalion has been selected for the 'General Chowdhury Award' this year," said M.L. Garg, battalion commandant.