Grief, anger and unanswered questions filled the BSF hangar at Safdarjung airport Wednesday as families paid tribute to 10 BSF officers killed in a plane crash a day earlier. Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who attended the ceremony with his deputies Kiren Rijiju and Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, faced tough questions from families even as he assured them of full government assistance and a thorough probe.
Saloni, the daughter of sub-inspector Rabinder Kumar, asked the Union Home Minister: “Why does this happen only to us? Why must a soldier always die? Why is the government always tight-lipped over deaths in plane crashes?”
Her mother Manorama Rai broke down and fainted several times even as her son’s colleagues consoled them.
Rajnath did not reply to Saloni’s question, but told them, “The government is with you in this difficult time. All financial and social help will be given.” MoS Rijiju also sought to calm tempers, saying: “The aircraft which crashed was not old or overaged (sic) as is being reported. The plane was inducted in 1995 and had a long life ahead. I used to travel in it… the reports coming in are wrong.”
Many families complained that the use of “old” aircraft was to blame for such incidents. The sister of Deputy Commandant Dhirendra Kumar, Priyanka, said, “My brother used to tell me that there are maintenance issues with the aircraft and most of them were getting old. Such incidents have happened in the past but nothing has changed.”
Gaurav Singh, also a pilot and a relative of the deceased co-pilot Rajesh Shivrain, said, “I talked to him (Shivrain) a few days ago. The are doubts over maintenance of old aircraft.”
Sub-Inspector Chote Lal Sharma’s son Somesh, a B-Tech student, said that his mother had been informed about her husband’s death Wednesday morning, nearly 24 hours after the incident.
“She fell ill after she learnt about the plane crash. She wasn’t informed about my father’s death. Earlier, we told her that he was in the ICU and his condition was critical… this morning, we finally gathered the courage to tell her,” said Somesh. He added that Sharma’s body would be taken to their hometown Narnaul in Haryana for the last rites.
Nidhi, the daughter of Inspector Raghvendra Pratap Yadav, said that she did not even get the chance to bid a proper farewell. “Yesterday morning, when he left, I was sleeping… I didn’t even say bye to him,” she said.