India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and 12 others, including his wife, were killed in a helicopter crash that took place near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. Among others who died in the accident included one of the two pilots of the ill-fated M17 V5 helicopter who were a part of the four-member crew. The only survivor of this crash is Group Captain Varun Singh who is in a critical state and has been admitted to Military Hospital, Wellington Cantonment, Nilgiri district, Tamil Nadu
File photo of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and his wife Madhulika Rawat. ANI
File photo of General Bipin Rawat as a young Second Lieutenant with his father Lt Gen L.S. Rawat (then Brigadier) on 16 December, 1978 at his commissioning in the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun beginning a 42-year plus journey in the Indian Army. ANI
Brigadier L.S. Lidder, Lt Col Harjinder Singh, Naik Jitender Kumar 3 Para (SF), Havaldar Satpal Raj, Lance Naik Vivek Kumar 1 Para (SF), NK Gurushewak Singh 9 Para (SF), Lance Naik B.S. Teja 11 Para (SF) who lost their lives in an IAF Mi-17 V5 helicopter crash in Coonoor. ANI
Rawat was on his way to address the faculty and student officers of Defence Services College, Wellington when the helicopter crashed just minutes before landing.
CDS Rawat’s wife Madhulika Rawat, his, DA, Brigadier L.S. Lidder, his SO, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh were among the 14 people on-board the military chopper that crashed. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has issued a list of names of General Rawat’s staff who were also on-board the crashed chopper. The names include CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier L.S. Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, N.K. Gursewak Singh, N.K. Jitendra Kumar, L/NK Vivek Kumar, L/NK B Sai Teja, and Havildar Satpal.
An Embraer Legacy 600 aircraft carrying CDS Rawat and other passengers had taken off from Delhi at 8.45 am, landed at Sulur, Coimbatore, roughly three hours later. Later, they took off from Sulur Air Force base for Wellington Defence College around 12.10 in the MI17 V5 which crashed within 15 minutes of taking off. The same was declared by the Indian Air Force, which operated the helicopter, at 2.30 pm. The official announcement of the death of Rawat and other passengers was made at 6 pm.
Almost an hour before the announcements, the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, who is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces, cancelled his Mumbai visit and came back to Delhi which indicated that the worst fear had come true.
An inquiry has been ordered by the IAF to ascertain why and how the accident occurred. The helicopter was being flown by Wing Commander Prithvi Singh Chauhan who was the Commanding Officer of the 109 Helicopter Unit. Varun Singh had joined the IAF in June 2004 and he has an experience of more than 17 years.
many of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition and DNA test is being done to ascertain the identity of the bodies.
General Rawat took over as the country’s first CDS on 1 January 2020 and was working to bring in theatre command system, a project that has been delayed due to multiple reasons as pointed out by The Sunday Guardian recently. (https://www.sundayguardianlive.com/news/china-closely-watching-india-theatre-command-moves).
Rawat, a man who was massively into research and studies, had authored numerous articles on national security. He had an MPhil in Defence Studies from Madras University, a Diploma in Management, a Diploma in Computer Studies and had completed his research on military media strategic studies following which he was awarded Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut in 2011.
It was under him that the Army started focusing on engaging with the media to disseminate information which went beyond sharing press releases. Rawat was seen as the informal voice of the Government of India on defence issues and would give messages to opponents and adversaries that could not be conveyed officially.
Rawat’s wife, Madhulika Singh Rawat, who too passed away in this accident, was from Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh. Her father, Kunwar Mrigrendra Singh, belonged to the erstwhile Shahdol princely state and was a Congress MLA. The 63-year-old Rawat was born in Pauri, Uttarakhand, and was commissioned into the Army in December 1978 at the age of 20 years. A decorated officer, he was appointed as the Chief of the Army Staff in December 2016, a position in which he served till December 2019.