India lost its first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Wednesday after a devastating chopper crash that killed the decorated officer, his wife and 11 other senior officials and staffers.
In his message soon after the announcement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Gen Rawat and the other armed force personnel who died served India with utmost diligence.
“I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the Armed Forces. They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” PM Modi said in a tweet.
Rawat was on a visit to the prestigious Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) at Wellington to address the faculty and student officers. Singh, the sole survivor and a decorated pilot, is a staff member at DSSC.
Late in the evening, the Indian Army confirmed that Brigadier L.S. Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel H. Singh, Wing Commander P.S. Chauhan, Squadron Leader K. Singh, Junior Warrant Officer (JWO) Das, JWO Pradeep A., Havildar Satpal, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitender, Lance Naik Vivek and Lance Naik S. Teja were the other defence personnel killed in the crash.
Sources said that Wing Commander P.S. Chauhan, Commanding Officer of the 109 Helicopter Unit (the Knights) at Air Force Station, Sulur, and Squadron Leader Kuldeep, piloted the crashed chopper.
General Rawat along with his wife left Delhi at 9 AM to address the lecture at Defence Services Staff College in Wellington. At 11.35 AM, the CDS landed in Sulur after which he departed for Wellington on a helicopter by 11.45 AM. The tragic crash is said to have taken place at 12.20 PM, just minutes before the chopper was to land.
As rescue efforts were underway at the crash site, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh briefed the Prime Minister on the situation and directed the IAF chief to visit the crash site. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) met in the evening at 6.30 p.m. and discussed the matter. Mr. Singh will make a statement on the incident in both Houses of the Parliament on Thursday, a defence official said.
Sources have stated that the cremation of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and his wife will be held on Friday, December 10, in Delhi Cantonment. Their mortal remains are expected to arrive in the National Capital in a military plane by Thursday evening after which they will be brought to his house on Friday where people would be allowed to pay their last respects. This would be followed by a funeral procession which will start from his residence at Kamraj Marg to Brar Square crematorium in Delhi Cantonment.
Rawat took over as India’s first CDS on December 31, 2019, after serving as army chief for a full three-year term. He was the longest-serving four-star general in the country’s military history. Rawat was spearheading the military’s theaterisation drive to enhance the effectiveness of the armed forces and reshape the conduct of future operations.