Pune: Alleging there was “negligence and lack of communication” on part of the Air Force, Parents of Flt Lt Kunal Barpatte, who was on board AN-32 aircraft which went missing along with 28 others on July 22 off Chennai coast, today said the IAF has not given the exact status information of the search operations.
“The aircraft has gone missing along with six crew members and 23 defence personnel for over 100 days now. The Air Force is not providing exact status and details of the search operations,” Kunal’s father Rajendra told reporters here.
Kunal was the navigator on the aircraft which went missing.
“As parents of Kunal, we feel that it is a prime responsibility of the Air Force to provide factual information to the affected families pertaining to the missing aircraft,” he said in the presence of his wife Vidya.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had visited the Barpatte family here and assured them of all support.
Rajendra said recently they received a letter from the Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Air headquarters in New Delhi, seeking consent for “presumption of demise”.
“It is Air Force which should declare about their demise.
Why are they (Air Force) seeking consent from us when they know everything about the operation,” he said.
He alleged the Air Force was showing “negligence and lack of communication in the matter”.
“Air Force had created a WhatsApp group of all the family members of missing crew members. However, they have stopped that group,” Rajendra said.
“All the families are in follow up with the Air Force on search operation. However, sadly there are no updates and the authorities have almost concluded the search operations despite the fact that wreckage is still not salvaged,” alleged Kunal’s parents.
“Our basic objection and demand is that if you (Air Force) do not have expertise in locating the aircraft, you should seek help from foreign countries,” he said.
He also claimed that the family had tried to seek clarification on the history of missing aircraft and the methodology, used by Air Force in the search operation.
“We have not received any response from the authorities,” Rajendra added.
He alleged that many questions like what exactly happened to the aircraft on the particular day, why there were delays in commencement of rescue operation, despite the fact that authorities had received clear radar signal, why under water locator was not fitted to the missing AN-32 aircraft despite being upgraded, are still unanswered. Rajendra claimed that “a source had clarified that the fleet of AN-32 did not have features which planes from the Navy and Coast Guard have because AN-32 is not primarily a marine / maritime aircraft.” He demanded that the use of AN-32 Aircraft be stopped to save the lives of IAF personnel and avoid wastage of national wealth. Kunal, a graduate from Fergusson College with B Sc in Electronics, had joined the IAF Academy, Dundigal. He was commissioned in 2008. Before his posting at Sulur Air Force base near Coimbatore, Kunal was stationed in Jorhat in Assam. PTI
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