The story of Uttarakhand floods is not just a tragic tale of thousands of people meeting an untimely death, of villages and cities being obliterated or of a disaster of unforeseen magnitude. It’s also a blazing saga of the heroic sacrifice of those who, no matter how adverse the situations were, rescued their countrymen and helped those in need. If it wouldn’t have been for the jawans of Army, Air Force, ITBP and others, what would have been the situation and how many more would have succumbed to this catastrophe is simply unfathomable.
The floods brought the whole administration on its knees just within few days; it was these jawans who took the situation head-on. Without submitting to the unending adversities they rescued more than a lakh people from the flood affected areas.
The task was not at all an easy one and the rescue personnel had their share of loosing too; when on June 25, Air Force’s Mi-17V5 helicopter returning from rescue operation crashed on a mountainous slop near Gauri Kund killing around 20 rescue personnel. Out of these 20, 5 were Air Force Officers, 9 of NDRF and 6 of ITBP. The deceased were given ‘guard of honour’ by Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde.
Those soldiers killed in this unfortunate incident were IAF’s Wing Commander Darryl Castelino, Flt Lt K Praveen, Flt Lt Tapan Kapoor, JWO A K Singh and Sgt Sudhakar Yadav. NDRF’s Commandant Nitya Nand Gupta, Inspector Bhim Singh, Sub Inspector Satish Kumar, Constables K Vinaygan, Bassavaraj Yaragatti, Santosh Kumar Paswan, Sanjiva Kumar, Shashi Kant Ramesh Pawar and Ahir Rao Ganesh. ITBP’s Commandant Nand Ram, Sub Inspector Jayender Prasad, Constables Jomon PG, Bibhuti Roy, Sarvesh Kumar and Ajay Lal.
Darryl Castelino, the pilot of the helicopter, was 38 years old and is survived by his wife and two children. Just a week before his demise he talked to his nephew and congratulated him on his class 10 result and said “I want you to join the Indian Air Force”.
Flt Lt K Praveen was from Madurai and was a brilliant student throughout his school and college life. He was selected in a leading software company through the campus interview but he chose to join IAF. He was the only child and hence made it a point to call his mother daily. On that fateful day too his mother kept on waiting for a call from him. Arrangements were being made for his marriage but unfortunately instead of garland, wreathes were placed on his body.
Similar is the story of Flt Lt Tapan Kapoor who was just 26 years old and had quit his well paying job to join IAF. He was from Chandani Chowk (New Delhi). His family told that Tapan was very happy with the work he was doing and that they are proud at his martyrdom. Sgt Sudhakar Yadav (35) was from Ashrafabad Village of UP and is survived by his wife, two kids and parents. Sanjeev Kumar of ITBP belonged to Patnari Village in Ballia (UP). His father said that he is proud of his son”s sacrifice.
No amount of praise will suffice to describe their service to the nation. Thousands of people gathered in their funeral procession to pay their tribute to the departed souls. A similar fate was met by a private helicopter on July 24, engaged by Uttarakhand government for relief operations. Besides the pilot, Capt. Jagjit Singh Dhaliwal, a technician Abhay Ranjan on the board was also killed in the crash. The nation shall always be indebted to these martyrs for their service to the nation.