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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tragedy strikes rescue team of IAF - Exemplary work of Indian Army & Airforce at Uttarakhand

India won the Champions Trophy and most of us would be able to recognize almost all the players…… may not be this man … he is Anil Kumar Browne….


The tragedy at hills of Uttarakhand is assuming demonic proportions going by the reports. There are heroes and topping that list for sure is our Army Jawans.  Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which is deployed along the Indo-China border, was the first to reach and initiate rescue operations in Uttarkhand’s Kedarnath Valley, the worst affected by the floods unleashed by the onset of monsoon rains and the cloudburst on June 16.  They have been doing a great job in reaching out to the worst affected regions and evacuate people when all connections – roads and bridges – had been washed away in the deluge.

Another tragedy struck – this time at Gaurikhand  on the rescuers themselves… very sad to read the news of an IAF Mi-17 helicopter carrying 20 people  crashing during a rescue mission killing all those on board.   Those on board the ill-fated chopper include five from IAF, six from ITBP and rest from National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sources said. The Mi-17 V5 chopper was on a rescue mission from Gauchar to Guptkashi and Kedarnath and crashed yesterday afternoon while returning from Kedarnath north of Gaurikund, according to an IAF spokesperson. IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal himself rushed to Uttarakhand today to boost the morale of pilots operating in difficult weather conditions. The crash occurred in “difficult” weather conditions created by rains and fog, a senior IAF official said here. The chopper belonged to a unit from Barrackpore Air Force Station in West Bengal under the Eastern Air Command.

The tragedy that Uttarakhand is faced with is neither new to the country nor something that was unexpected. Another cloudburst in 2010 killed 1000 people in Leh just three years back. While the enormity of the tragedy is coming to fore just now, past experience should have told political leaders of our country about the magnitude the tragedy could assume right when it broke. Sadly we have leaders who undertake aerial surveys and ceremonial dropping of food from thereof / flagging of relief vehicles and the like – all in front of cameras. This catastrophe seems to be an amplified version of past landslides and flash floods which typically hit the state in August, after the peak tourism season has ended.

Though it is not right to make comparisons, perhaps what is written in Firstpost is absolute truth.  Politicians, right from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh downwards, have been singing paeans to our armed forces heroes who have been putting their lives on the line in the mission to rescue people in the thousands in the flood-affected areas of Uttarakhand. But these words come across as empty nothingness when one considers the compensation that those who died in Tuesday’s helicopter crash will receive – and contrasts with the “reward”  for the Indian cricketers who won the Champions Trophy on Sunday. Appearing on a CNN-IBN panel discussion late on Tuesday, Col Anil Kaul pointed to this as exemplifying the “platitudes” that politicians offer the armed forces in times of crises – without doing anything substantive once the crisis fades away.

“People in the services are remembered in times of war, calamity,  disaster – and anytime that things go wrong,” said Col Kaul. “But once the crisis is over, we are a forgotten tribe – until the next disaster strikes.” In particular, Col Kaul drew attention to the fact that while the cricketers who won the Champions Trophy on Monday had been given a reward of Rs 1 crore each, the relatives of the armed forces personnel who perished in the helicopter crash on Tuesday while on a rescue mission in Uttarakhand will be paid a measly Rs 15 lakh in compensation. Even the countless other armed forces personnel who have been involved in the rescue operation – in hazardous terrain, facing inclement weather and putting their own lives at risk – will, he noted, retire over time. But the “same worthies” who represent the various segments of the political mainstream and civil society will go to court against us ex-servicemen and deny us our basic compensation,” said Col Kaul, giving expression to his frustration.

Col Kaul also made the additional point that many of the civilian deaths in the Uttarakhand tragedy may have been averted if the appropriate flood prevention equipment had been procured in time. Brandishing a piece of equipment before the camera, Col Kaul narrated another typical story of corruption in government that preys on human lives. The equipment – which looks like nothing more than a piece of cloth – was, he said, a “replacement for the erstwhile sandbag”.  But it has hydrogel packed in it, and when dropped in water, it expands from its original weight of 40 grams to 250 kg. “It can be used to divert water, and serves other multifarious functions.” According to Col Kaul, he exhibited the technology to the erstwhile vice chairman of the National Disaster Management Agency six months ago, but was told that it was a State subject. After which, he said, he was approached by “touts” from the State who wanted him to pay money to get the State government to procure the hydrogel sandbags. Equipment like these, says Col Kaul, could have saved thousands of lives.

The ruling party at the State and the Centre  has not distinguished itself with its planning nor timing of their action.  News of floods and devastation started trickling in from Uttarakhand almost two weeks ago. Yet, there is little logic to explain why the leaders chose to react and visit the state this late. While they blame Narendra Modi, he for sure cannot be faltered for taking care of his own people – yes he caring only for his own people is sought to be over played now. 

You may or may not like him being called Rambo….but shortly after the disaster Modi was in Uttarakhand, held a meeting till 1am with his crack rescue team of five IAS, one IPS, one IFS and two GAS (Gujarat Administrative Service) officers. Around 80 Toyota Innovas reportedly were requisitioned to ferry Gujaratis to safer places in Dehradun so also were four Boeings. On Saturday, 25 luxury buses transported a bunch of people to Delhi. Modi even offered to "completely rebuild" the temple at Kedarnath using "the latest technology available" in such a way that no natural calamity would ever shake it again.  Political compulsions ensured that the Uttarakhand CM  refused to take the help offered.  Modi's men have not only para-dropped a complete medical team in Hardwar, they have also set up camps across th flood-hit regions ~ and he drove back 15000 Gujaratis who had been struck there…….

In what differentiates Great men from mortals, IAF Chief NAK Browne who visited the site of a chopper crash said meanwhile, that most of the evacuation work has been completed, adding that they would continue with rescue work once the weather allowed them a window of opportunity. Speaking about the chopper crash that took place on Tuesday evening Browne said, “What exactly happened we will know only once we recover MI17 voice data recorder. We have sent commandos to the crash site. We have recovered recording devices and only analysis will reveal the cause of the crash.” Browne was also quick to say that the IAF was not going anywhere. “Morale is still very high…Our rotors will not stop churning”, he said.  Hats off to such great persons…..

Air Chief Marshal Norman Anil Kumar Browne, also known as "Charlie" Browne, is the current Chief of the Air Staff(CAS) of the Indian Air Force (IAF). He was Vice Chief of the Air Staff until 31 July 2011 when he replaced outgoing Air Chief Marshal Pradeep Vasant Naik.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


Largely reproduced from www.firstpost.com

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