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    This Independence Day, Discovery Channel will lift the veil off India’s elite paratrooper special forces.

    They work in utmost secrecy, sometimes even dying in the line of work in some distant part of the world–yet, year after year young men from the Indian Army try desperately to enter the elite para special forces, which sees 90-95 percentage of attrition rate during the selection process itself. Come this Independence Day, Discovery Channel will reveal, in its hour-long show, Indian Paratroopers: Earning the Badge, the grueling selection process. “Some of these elite soldiers, in the front line of our battles, come from little known towns and villages in our country–we thought it was the right time to honour them,” begins Prabhu Asgaonkar, the producer of the show, who had to spend 15 months in production, with a good part spent on research as little is known outside the defence circles about these troopers.

    Toughest day
    In the show, which was filmed in an undisclosed location, 23 men–all in their early 20s are pushed to physical and mental extremes like non-stop 100 kilometre runs, uphill sprints, cold water swims, while also being put through days of sleep deprivation–all during the selection phase. The men are also put through exercises, which require them to demolish structures, evade capture, survive in the wild, give emergency medical aid and converse in a range of languages. “The whole exercise is a roller coaster ride from hell and back, where men break down, but the strongest have succeeded to earn the precious maroon beret and The Balidaan Badge (the winged blade of sacrifice),” says Asgaonkar.

    Enemy lines
    Thanks to Hollywood, Indian viewers know more about Navy Seals and British SAS over their very own maroon beret paratroopers. Not any lower than their American and British counterparts, these ghost operatives regularly work behind national borders to foil terrorist attacks and safeguard national interests with the latest being a counter insurgency operation in Myanmar. “Indian para ranks amongst the very best special forces operatives in the world as they serve in the most difficult terrains including the Siachen Glacier–the highest battlefield on earth,” says, Asgaonkar adding that this coming out of the special forces will hopefully enable us to add these men to popular culture.
    On Discover Channel, August 15 at 9 pm

    —P Peter

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