Karnataka hamlet mourns Siachen’s brave-heart

Dharwad (Karnataka), Feb 12 (IANS) Hundreds of people gathered at the house of Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad at Betadur village near here on Thursday night to mourn his tragic death at an army hospital in New Delhi earlier in the day.

When Koppad’s mortal remains were brought on road from Hubbali airport around midnight, wrapped in a casket and draped in tri-colour, his extended family plunged into grief even as his brother and close relatives broke down.

The 33-year-old brave-heart lost the battle for life three days after he was rescued from a Siachen glacier at the world’s highest and coldest battlefield where he was buried under 35 feet in ice for six days after an avalanche struck his camp on February 3.

State chief minister Siddaramaiah, opposition leader Jagadish Shettar and many dignitaries were present at the airport when an IAF AN-32 aircraft landed with Koppad’s body at 10.30 p.m.

After laying wreaths and paying floral tributes, Siddaramaiah consoled Koppada’s widow Mahadevi, mother Basavva, two-year-old daughter Netra and brother Govindappa, who accompanied the body from Delhi.

“Besides an ex-gratia amount, the state government will give Koppad’s family farm land, a residential plot at Hubbali for building a house and a government job to his widow,” Siddaramaiah told reporters at the airport, about 410-km from Bengaluru.

The state government will also pay hefty compensation to families of two other soldiers from the state-Sepoy Mahesha from Mysuru district and Subedar Nagesha from Hassan district who perished in the tragic mishap atop Siachen along with seven others last week.

“We are pained because we thought he will recover in one or two days and come back. We prayed to all gods but in vain. His family is shattered,” Koppad’s neighbour Manjunath told reporters, weeping inconsolably.

When news of Koppad’s death reached his village on Thursday afternoon, many people also felt proud that he was martyred in the mountains while serving the country.

“Koppad will be laid to rest on Friday afternoon with full state honours, including 21-gun salute in the presence of army personnel and state reserved police.

Koppad belonged to the 19th battalion of Madras Regiment, which he joined 13 years ago after failing to get through into the army on three occasions in past.

Koppad was posted on the Siachen glacier since August 2015 and deployed at one of the highest posts (Sonam) facing Pakistan and where temperatures plunge to minus 40 degrees Celsius and winds blow up to 100-km per hour.

The 10 soldiers buried alive were maintaining the world’s highest helipad in the area, which brought supplies for soldiers on the Siachen glacier.

While nine soldiers, including one junior commissioned officer, died, Koppad was the only one who survived for six days buried under tonnes of snow.

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