Thursday, November 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

IAF to re-examine flight exercises
Tribune News Service

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj and Himachal Pradesh Governor Suraj Bhan extending sympathy to Murari Lal, who lost three family members in the plane crash near Ambala on Wednesday. — PTI photo

Air Force officers inspect the wreckage of the Jaguar fighter aircraft in Ambala on Wednesday.
— photo Neeraj Chopra

Ambala, November 6
In a major development in the wake of Jaguar crash here yesterday, the Indian Air Force is said to be planning to re-examine the flight exercises from the Ambala Cantonment airbase.

The plan to review the flight exercises from the strategically-located airbase here comes in the wake of three crashes within six months. The death toll in the Jaguar crash rose to six today, even as the black box, expected to throw light on the final moments, has been recovered.

The Information and Broadcasting Minister, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, said today she had received a message from Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy through the Defence PRO, Mr R.M. Rao, on IAF plan to re-examine the flight exercises.

“In order to reduce danger to civilian population near the airfield, the IAF is keen to re-phase flight exercises. Air Chief Marshal Krishnaswamy has said we want to re-phase our flight exercises to reduce risk to civilian population, she said.

Mrs Swaraj said the IAF had stressed that Jaguar was one of the safest aircraft and even the MiG aircraft based at the Ambala airfield were of the latest technology. “Since there have been three accidents in six months and in light of the increasing risk to the population, the IAF is planning to re-examine the flight exercises”, she said.

She said the airbase here was established in 1932. “The Ambala Air Force Station has given extensive support to the war operations against Pakistan”, she said. “It is an old base but now population has settled down close to the airfield”, she observed.

Meanwhile, there were poignant moments at the cremation ground where bodies of five of the six crash victims were consigned to the flames.

Among others, Himachal Governor, Dr Suraj Bhan, Union Minister, Mrs Sushma Swaraj, Haryana Minister, Risal Singh and Dr M.L. Ranga and Ambala MP Ratan Lal Kataria, were present.

Murari Lal, who had lost three of his kin in the crash, was grief-stricken. His wife Vimla, daughter Lajwanti and grand-daughter Arti were killed in the crash. His another daughter Manju and son-in-law Nirmal have been battling for life.

The Deputy Commissioner, Mr D.D. Gautam, said Rs 1 lakh would be given to the next of the kin of each of the deceased. “The medical expenses of the injured will be taken care of and the assessment of the house will begin today”, he said.

Congress leaders, including Mr Ashok Jain, Mr Phool Chand Mullana, Mr Nirmal Singh and Ms Satya Bharati demanded that a compensation of Rs 5 lakh should be given to each of the victims.

With the recovery of the black box, the investigations into the crash were likely to be speeded up. The flight data recorder could throw light on the final moments before the pilot had to eject out. The Air Force personnel had cleared the wreckage from the spot. The wreckage was loaded on a trailer which would be carried away to the airbase for further examination.

PTI adds: Although the Haryana Health Minister M.L. Ranga has said the state government will give a grant of Rs 1 lakh to the family of each killed and free treatment to the injured, yet some of the victims in Chandigarh said neither Air Force personnel nor any other official had visited them. Jagga Ram, father of one of the injured Dinesh, said he shifted his son after paying Rs 1,500 to a taxi out of his own pocket.

Brij Pal, relative of another injured, said “no aid has been given to us by the district administration so far”.

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