Monday, August 23, 2021

Indian Army chopper crash: 20 days on, family disheartened

Chandigarh: As Capt Jayant Joshi’s body is yet to be traced after even 20 days of the crash of Rudra attack chopper from the 254 Army Aviation Squadron of Mamun Cantonment in Pathankot into the Ranjit Sagar dam, the disappointed family has questioned the planning and strategy of the ongoing search operations.

“I have lost my confidence in the last 20 days, seeing the way search operations are going on here. My son continues to be in his water grave and decaying unto his bones due to ill equipped search, experimentation and ‘jugad’ by concerned authorities,” said Capt Jayant’s father Harish Joshi (60), from Mamun Cantt over the phone.

Lt Col Abheet Singh Batth and Capt Jayant were on a low-level training sortie when their Advanced Light Helicopter-Weapon System Integrated (ALH-WSI) chopper, also called Rudra, developed a snag and crashed into the Ranjit Sagar dam in Jammu and Kashmir on August 3 morning. It went down at least 80 metres deep inside the water. The body of Amritsar native Lt Col Batth was recovered from the reservoir on August 15.

“Imagine, my wife is a serving Colonel in the Military Nursing Service (MNS). She gave her son to the nation. Today she is waiting to see her son’s body, which is decaying in deep waters,” he added. Capt Jayant’s mother, Colonel Jiwan Tara is posted in the eastern theatre and has completed 40 years of service. Capt Jayant (27) took inspiration from her mother to join the Army. “There is no sensitivity and no respect for a soldier on the part of those leading. That is the fate of a soldier,” said the father in a choked and emotional voice. Neel, Capt Jayant’s elder brother, told TOI that his brother’s loss is now leading to a lot of trauma as well as health conditions for him and other family members. The search operation needs to conclude as soon as possible and if any help is required in terms of international equipment then that should be expedited, he added. “It is very surprising that two arms of the defence forces — the Army and the Navy — are engaged and after 20 days we are still waiting for the retrieval of chopper’s wreckage and Jayant’s body from a lake. It raises a lot of questions about the operation but we don’t want to go into that. At least give us back whatever is left there,” said Neel.

Capt Jayant Joshi was a product of Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan, in Delhi. He completed his graduation in electrical and electronics engineering before being commissioned in the Army in June 2017. For two years, he was attached with the 9 Sikh Light Infantry and served at the LOC. Thereafter, he joined the aviation branch, completed one year flying training and was posted at Mamun Cantonment.

3 pilots of same squadron killed in a month

Capt Jayant’s father pointed out that in the last seven months, three pilots of the squadron have lost their lives in two separate crashes of Rudra chopper developed by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. One more pilot was seriously injured and may not be able to fly again, he said. “One by one, they are dying and it is a cause of concern which should be probed,” he alleged. In earlier incident on January 25 this year, a chopper had crash landed in Lakhanpur area of Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir in which Lt Col Rishubh Sharma (36) had died while the co-pilot Capt Anjani Kumar Singh was seriously injured.

Harish Joshi says it was on the second day of the crash that the Navy divers who were flown in from Mumbai dived into the waters beyond humanly possible capabilities, nearly up to 60 metres down. “They gave detailed first-hand account to the authorities on the same day that there is flush and mud below there and the visibility is very low. But even then the authorities could not decide what actually should be the strategy and indulged in experiments one after another,” he alleged.

The father says that it was the family’s luck that by God’s grace Colonel Baath’s body was found at the depth of nearly 75 metres on August 15 evening when the team was winding up the operations for the day. “It was only an incidental finding,” he claimed adding that “the body was lying outside the chopper at least at a distance of seven metres”.

The Joshi family says they have no problem with the human efforts being made to search the body by the divers as they are going beyond what is humanly possible and one of the divers even had to be admitted to ICU. They say though the search team has located the chopper but their equipment is unable to see what is inside the chopper.

23/08/21 Sanjeev Verma/Times of India

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