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Force Magazine
Guest Column - Force Magazine
Hard Reality Check
India should look to playing the role of a regional humanitarian aid provider
AVM Manmohan Bahadur (retd) By AVM Manmohan Bahadur (retd)

Uttarakhand is one of the youngest states of India, formed just 14 years ago on 9 November 2000. It is also home to some of the most sacred shrines – Yamnotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath. One of these four sacred dhams of the Hindus, Kedarnath, was in the news for the devastating floods that struck it and the adjoining hills last year on June 16. It took some time for the extent of the calamity to hit home. The first person on the scene was an ex-Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, Sqn Ldr Bhupinder VrC (fondly called Bhupi in the IAF) who was flying a civil charter helicopter in the area. Bhupinder was asked by the civil administration to fly to Kedarnath and Rambara to check what was wrong as all contact had been lost with the civil administration. In the words of Bhupinder,
“â€ĶI got a shock of my life as Rambara, a huge place, did not exist at all.” This set in motion a flurry of activity, resulting in the mounting of perhaps the greatest heli-lift and rotary wing relief operation in the history of aviation.

While the army and the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) started deploying on ground, the IAF was galvanised into action for air evacuating the pilgrims, as roads simply became non-existent. Helicopters were diverted from routine missions and were called up from all parts of the country. In the event, rotary wing machines came in from Barrackpore in the East and from as far South as Coimbatore. The Sarang helicopter aerobatic display team was practicing at Air Force Academy at Hyderabad for the passing out parade; their show was cancelled and the helicopters ordered to proceed post-haste to Dehra Dun. The transport fleet was pressed into service and C-130 Super Hercules aircraft became intimately involved. Dehra Dun became the nerve centre of all operations. A Task Force Commander (an Air Commodore) was appointed to oversee the flying and in fact, the assistant chief of air staff in charge of transport and helicopter operations was also stationed there. While the former was looking after the operations at the tactical level from the forward helipads, the latter was coordinating the huge relief that was pouring in through the government and the multitude of agencies, both civil and military, connected with the relief operations.

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