Chennai, Dec 8 : Gloom descended on the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington in Tamil Nadu’s Nilgiris district on Wednesday afternoon after news of the Indian Air Force (IAF) chopper carrying senior military officials, including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, going down.
Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and others were in the chopper.
He was going to the DSSC to give a lecture scheduled at 2.45 p.m. at the Sekhon hall.
The chopper, with a total of 14 persons on board, took off from the Sulur air base near Coimbatore and was on its way to Coonoor. When the chopper was a few minutes away from landing, it, as per eyewitnesses, hit a tree, crashed, and caught fire, resulting in several casualties.
An eyewitness said it was misty, and it was maybe due to this the chopper hit a tree and went down. He said he reached the spot and saw the chopper was upside down and was on fire.
The official figures as to the people who lost their lives and who were injured are yet to be released.
“Comprehensive checks of the helicopter would have been done. There would have been a standby helicopter as well. The weather condition would have been checked. In this case, if the weather at Wellington was marginal, they may have decided to make an attempt and then called it off,” said a former official of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The official said a technical snag or weather could have been the factor due to which crash happened.
The DSSC is a joint services institution functioning in accordance with the directives issued by the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and its Commandant is responsible to the Committee through the Chairman, Joint Training Committee.
The aim of the staff course is to train selected officers of the three services in command and staff functions in peace and war in their own service, inter-service and joint service environment, and to provide related general education to enable them to perform effectively in command and staff appointments.
The DSSC is one of the few institutions of its type in the world where training is imparted to aspiring staff officers of all the three services, as also selected officers of the paramilitary and civil services, and officers from friendly foreign countries.
The DSSC has a glorious past and traces its lineage to 1905 when it was set up at Devlali (now in Maharashtra).
In 1907, it shifted to Quetta (now in Pakistan). The College shifted back to India in 1947 and is now home to the joint services course for the three services, under one roof.
Besides great military leaders, many of those who have graduated from here have become heads of their states, senior cabinet ministers, senior diplomats, and civil administrators.
The list of alumni of DSSC includes Olusegun Obasanjo (President, Nigeria, 1999-2007) Muhammadu Buhari (President, Nigeria, 2015 to date), Sitiveni Rabuka (President, Fiji, 1992-1999) and Gotabaya Rajapaksa (President, Sri Lanka, 2019 to date), the DSSC said.
(V.Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])