Outrage as parents forced to drive 2,600 km for army officer's funeral

Outrage as parents forced to drive 2,600 km for army officers funeral
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Several Army veterans have expressed outrage after the parents of a 39-year-old decorated officer, a Shaurya Chakra winner, were forced to travel a distance of more than 2,600 km between Amritsar and Bengaluru by road to perform the last rites of their son.

New Delhi: Several Army veterans have expressed outrage after the parents of a 39-year-old decorated officer, a Shaurya Chakra winner, were forced to travel a distance of more than 2,600 km between Amritsar and Bengaluru by road to perform the last rites of their son.

Colonel NS Bal, a Special Forces officer who commanded the elite 2 Para unit of the Army, lost his battle against a rare cancer on Friday. The previous day, he had posted a selfie that showed him smiling on a hospital bed in Bengaluru.

A winner of Shaurya Chakra, the country's third highest gallantry award, Colonel Bal was known to be a great leader.

His parents, who were in Amritsar at the time of his death, were not given the permission to travel to Bengaluru by a services aircraft for his last rites amid a nationwide lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus, which began on March 25.

Colonel NS Bal's mortal remains were being flown home by Army aircraft but his parents wanted to perform his last rites in Bengaluru, sources in the Army told NDTV. They decided to cover the distance of about 2,600 km for his funeral by road.

Meanwhile, sources in the government said that a precedent cannot be set for providing services aircraft to next of kin of armed forces and police forces when mortal remains are always returned home immediately, adding that only a limited number of military aircraft are available.

In a tweet, former Army Chief General VP Malik, replying to a post by Colonel NS Bal's brother - Navtez Singh Bal, wrote: "Deepest condolences! Have a safe journey. Sad GOI did not help. Rules are never written on stone. They are modified or changed in special circumstances."

Another post by an Army veteran, Major DP Singh read: "All the best bro. Prayers for safe journey and good health of parents.

An old soldier, father of Col Bal, would take it in his stride, and I am sure madam will rather be his rock solid support as always. Hail the spirit of #soldier and #camaraderie. Jai hind Flag of India (sic) ."

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