Coronavirus lockdown: Army officer dies of cancer, parents travel 2,000 km by road for last rites
Colonel Navjot Singh Bal, a gallantry award winner, died on Thursday due to cancer. He was 39. The army officer's ageing parents are on an over 2,000 km journey to bid a final adieu to the brave son who lost his battle to cancer in Bengaluru.
The braveheart’s parents are travelling by road from Gurugram to Bengaluru to attend his last rites amid the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown as bureaucratic hurdles ensured that an Air Force aircraft is not provided to them.
However, sources said the family was extended the services of a military aircraft to transport the body of the soldier to Delhi for cremation with full military honours at Brar Square Delhi Cantt but the family members themselves expressed the desire to have the cremation in Bengaluru itself.
His parents left on Friday morning and are likely to reach by Saturday evening, covering a distance of more than 2,000 km, driving through the length of the country.
Since there are no civilian flights, requests were made for a military aircraft to fly the family but it did not materialise as no formal orders were passed.
Sources said due to the nationwide lockdown, a clearance was needed from the Ministry of Home Affairs and necessary permissions for movement were given by Thursday evening.
However, there were no formal orders for the Indian Air Force to fly them, forcing them to take the arduous road journey.
“There needs to be a clearance for civilians to fly in an Air Force aircraft and despite requests and an understanding that the family could be flown there were no formal orders passed,” said a military officer on condition of anonymity.
The common sentiment among the military fraternity is while there is no precedent for parents flying in military aircraft but this was an extraordinary situation under a medical emergency.
Another source said it was a “systemic failure” as nobody took a call despite the matter being in public domain.
Colonel Bal was awarded the Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award for showcasing exemplary valour in an operation in Lolab in Jammu and Kashmir.
He was a Special Forces officers belonging to the 2 Para regiment of the Indian Army. He also commanded his unit until sometime back before he was diagnosed with cancer over a year back.
He is survived by his wife and two sons aged eight and four.
He was commissioned in the Indian Army in 2002 and had an illustrious career being part sensitive operations as a Special Forces officer.