Chopper crash: Demise of India’s Chief of Defense Staff, wife and 11 army personnel

People had gathered to pay respect to the deceased with chants of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Hind’.
People had gathered to pay respect to the deceased with chants of ‘Vande Mataram’, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Jai Hind’.

General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other armed personnel were killed after the IAF chopper they were travelling in crashed near Coonoor, in the hilly Nilgiri district in Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday, the 8th of December 2021. General Rawat was India's first Chief of Defence Staff.

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Then Chief of Army Staff present Chief of Defence Staff- General Bipin Rawat and Mrs. Madhulika Rawat with the Cadets from foreign countries, at the NCC Reception, in New Delhi on January 16, 2018.Ministry of Defence, Wikimedia

The security around the residence of the General has been strengthened as several important dignitaries came to offer their condolences to the bereaved family. The couple is survived by their two daughters – Kritika and Tarini. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Indian Army chief M.M. Naravane and Navy chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar met the family of the General. The family has been serving in the Indian Army for four generations. Madhulika Rawat, the General's wife, had been the President nof the Army Wives' Welfare Association. This organisation is one of the largest NGOs working towards ensuring the welfare of the wives, children, and dependents of Army personnel.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin in a condolence message said, "General Rawat left an indelible mark on the course of the US-India defence partnership and was at the center of the Indian Armed Forces' transformation into a more jointly integrated warfighting organisation…… I had the privilege of meeting with him earlier this year and viewed him as a valued partner and friend of the United States…… I and the [Defense] Department extend our deepest condolences to the Rawat family, the Indian military, and the people of India after the tragic passing of Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash."

The US embassy in New Delhi said, "Rawat spearheaded a historic period of transformation in the Indian military…… He was a strong friend and partner of the United States, overseeing major expansion of India's defense cooperation with the US military."

This crash is not a one-off incident. Every year, tragic incidents like these happen where soldiers lose their lives. At times it is due to an aging fleet or due to technical glitches. In the last few years, there have been 5-10 incidents of transport aircraft crash every year. The Government had stated that every aircraft accident in the IAF is to be investigated by the Court of Inquiry to ascertain the cause of the accident. The Indian Air Force has ordered the Court of Inquiry to look into this case also.

The lone survivor of the crash that occurred on Wednesday, Group Captain Varun Singh, is battling for life with 80-85 % burn injuries. He was the Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Tami Nadu. The Captain has also been the recipient of the Shaurya Chakra gallantry award. He had recently been promoted from Wing Commander to Group Captain and recently joined the college at Wellington.

Two more people were found to be alive by them, and they took them to the Wellington Army Hospital.Pixabay

From the group of people who had first reached the crash site at Kattari Park in Coonoor, one villager said that General Bipin Rawat was alive when they had arrived. He had even asked for water from them. Two more people were found to be alive by them, and they took them to the Wellington Army Hospital. They also informed that they did not know who the General was when they rescued him, but later identified him when the pictures of the late officer came out.

Karnataka Chief Minister Basavraj Bommai, after paying his respects to CDS General Bipin Rawat, said that the late officer had been a strong votary for 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' in defence production of arms and was instrumental in starting indigenous production of arms and equipment within the country. Apart from innovation and development of modern weaponry systems and equipment, he pushed for transfer of technology to encourage participation of private sector in the defence production. He also added, "General Rawat had shown an unprecedented stand on many issues related to India's security. His strong posture against China during the recent border stand-off had compelled Chinese troops to retreat. The nation needed his leadership for the years ahead too."

People had gathered to pay respect to the deceased with chants of 'Vande Mataram', 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Jai Hind'.Reuters, VOA

People had gathered at the Sulur Air Force station, where the bodies of the departed had been brought, and paid respect to the deceased with chants of 'Vande Mataram', 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and 'Jai Hind'. The Armed forces personnel also paid tributes to the 11 army personnel, the Chief of Defence Staff and his wife Madhulika.

(Keywords : Chief of Defence Staff, India, Army, Air Force, Navy, crash, helicopter, Coonoor.)

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