Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Drifting Parachute

That was the northern most post of the Indian Army and I had the proud privilege of being its post commander in 1982. The post was entirely air maintained, implying, that rations were air dropped and the mail was delivered by the helicopters, which were also used for evacuation of personnel due to ill health or otherwise. The nearest habitation or vegitation was about eighteen days foot journey or pony ride away. So the sight of the aircraft high up in the air and of the chopper at the helipad were the most pleasant ones for the troops. However, clear skies were the biggest precondition for both such sights.

That day was a bright one, which meant, that the air drop was possible. As expected we heard the sound of the aircraft and in a short while it could be seen orbiting on top of our post. The dropping zone was always kept marked, yet, the aircraft took some rounds over the post giving ample time to alert the troops below to clear the dropping zone, as also, for lighting smoke candle there to indicate to the pilot the wind direction at the DZ. We came out of the bunkers to look at the parachutes with the payload swinging in the air, coming down slowly and finally settling on the ground with a thud. Some times some parachutes did not open properly and came down swiftly crashing their contents on the dropping zone. These were called candled parachutes owing to their resemblance to a burning candle (the payload and the strings representing the body of the candle and the white cloth of the unopen parachute wavering in the air like its flame while coming down at a great speed).

That day also the drop was normal with some parachutes not opening and hence crashing down on the DZ. But to our surprise one parachute despite having opened fully did not show any sign of coming down and instead, was drifting away from our location. As I got curious I told the Company JCO to get the horses immediately. We followed the flight of the drifting parachute and found it at a distance of about two to three kilometers from our post. It had ultimately dropped down and had settled in the middle of a small dry lake. On closer examination we found that there were some cans of kerosene oil kept in a wooden crate but the same were empty. Since the load was not enough to pull down the fully open parachute it had drifted away from the dropping zone.

Later I found out from the reliable sources that a small group of personnel in the supply unit responsible for packing and loading the rations in the aircraft indulged in regular pilferage of rations. Their modus operandi was to partially empty the contents of some of the cans/boxes containing mostly attractive items in a particular parachute and give it some faulty knot so that it would not open and would crash its half filled contents on the dropping zone, thus not raising suspicion about any malpractice. But in the case of our drifting parachute firstly, they must have emptied the contents of all the cans of the crate as was evident from the empty cans and secondly, they also forgot to give the wrong knot to the parachute, as a result of which it opened normally but refused to come down at the designated place. I had also observed that the crashing parachutes invariably contained items like condensed milk, eggs, liquor or oil etc. Never did a parachute carrying the grass fodder for the horses and mules crash.

The group was caught and punished severely as they were not only indulging in pilferage in one of the cleanest organizations of the country but were also being cruel by stealing the kerosene oil of those troops who had to warm their bunkers with that oil at a place where the temperature dropped down to minus 50 degree Celsius.

This post also forms part of series on my life journey. To read all the posts in this series please click here.


Vikas said...


Another proof that the some people can cheat at the cost of their mother land! And now, with people like Laloo Prasad around, I am sure even the parachutes with fodder must be crashing off.

Capt N.S.Bisht said...

Hi Balli,
Your post regarding air drops reminded me of similiar incidents (regarding breakages and items not being received as per the manifest)when I was the post commander (high sounding designation for a 2Lt !!) at Wakka Post in Tirap District of Arunachal in the year 1978. What I recollect most vividly is the queue of Gorkha Johnnies with their enamel mugs waiting for a para load containing Rum to crash so that they may at least get a few gulps from the broken bottles (glass pieces or shards notwithstanding !!. This was usually followed by the inevitable paperwork to regularise the "so called loss". Those were the days .....

BK Chowla said...

What can one say when one reads a story like this.Corruption

Balvinder Singh said...

yes Mr. Chowla, corrupt people are everywhere, and they try to indulge in corruption at the slightest amount of opportunity available to them, regardless of the fact that who is going to be the victim of their misdemeanor.