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Antony faints at passing-out parade
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Pune, May 31
Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony today fainted during the passing out parade at the well laid out National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla. He collapsed twice within a span of a couple of minutes just as the impressive ceremony, during which 286 cadets passed out, was about to culminate.

After he collapsed, Antony, 68, had to be lifted from the parade ground by senior officers. He then stood near his car and watched the conclusion of the ceremony. Later, Antony was taken to the military hospital on the campus for treatment.

The minister is out of danger, said Col (Dr) Deepak Bahadur while briefing reporters about Antonyís condition. The ministerís scheduled interaction with the media was cancelled and the doctors put him under observation. Antony was latter referred to the Cardiac Trauma Centre at the Command Hospital, Pune.

The NDA is celebrating its diamond jubilee this year. Cadet Yamnam Romen Singh from a rural area of Manipur was awarded the Presidentís Gold Medal, indicating a shift towards cadets from the Northeast doing well at the NDA. The ceremony was witnessed by parents and families of the cadets besides senior officers of the Southern Command based in Pune.

About 14 cadets from Tajakistan and Bhutan also passed out today. The NDA has also witnessed a demographic shift as the number of cadets from rural background is rising. Last year, 25 per cent of the 296 cadets taken in were from the rural areas. About 10 years ago, the average used to be just 3 per cent while the urban cadets formed a large chunk.

Meanwhile, Colonel Bahadur blamed the ministerís condition on fatigue and lack of sleep coupled with a grueling schedule he had been keeping for the past few days. He returned from Berlin yesterday morning and was working through the day only to reach Pune past midnight and was at the parade at 7 am.

Minutes before his medical emergency, Antony had inspected the parade and told cadets that the government was aware of the tough service conditions and other problems. Several measures had been taken to bring about improvements, including new accommodation facilities and liberalised leave rules. The quality of life would be better, he promised.

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