Missing IAF AN-32 aircraft: In this Punjab family, a mother who doesn’t know her son’s missing, a father who is searching for him

The wreckage of the IAF AN-32 aircraft remained untraced for the third straight day on Wednesday although massive multi-agency search operations are going on, officials said.

For the Indian Air Force (IAF) Flight Lieutenant Mohit Garg (27), staying at home for a few days was never less than a luxury. Shifting to a hostel when he was in Class 4, Mohit, whom his family describes as an “extraordinarily intelligent and bright boy”, hardly ever stayed at home.

Mohit is one of the 13 people on board the IAF AN-32 aircraft that went missing Monday in Arunachal Pradesh after taking off from Assam’s Jorhat. Since Monday, his family back home in Samana town of Punjab’s Patiala district is only praying for a miracle and ruing if he could’ve spent some more time with them at home.

Born in a business family, Mohit’s father Surinderpal Garg and elder brother Ashwani are commission agents (arthiyas). His sister Meenu is married. He was first from his family to opt for defence forces.

After Class 12, Mohit cleared the NDA entrance exam.

Speaking to The Indian Express at their residence in Samana, Ashwani said that Mohit was an “extraordinarily intelligent boy” and that is why parents sent him to Sainik School (Punjab Public School, Nabha) instead of forcing him into their family business.

“Our father never stopped him from pursuing what he wanted to. He always excelled in studies and even refused to pursue engineering. Since his schooling was from PPS, his interest grew in defence forces. He cleared NDA entrance and made his career choice,” said Ashwani.

Since last five years, Mohit was posted in Jorhat. He got married to Astha Garg of Jalandhar, a banker, last year. “Last they had visited us on Diwali… they were due to come for some days now as mother was missing them badly,” said Vandana, Mohit’s sister-in-law (Ashwani’s wife). “All he ever craved was for home cooked food. He was bored and tired of mess food,” she added.

As the search for missing aircraft continued for third day on Wednesday, Mohit’s father and uncle, Rishipal Garg, reached Jorhat to be with Astha. The family hasn’t informed Mohit’s bed-ridden mother Salochana Devi, a heart patient, about the incident.

Mohit has a grouse with the government. “Such an incident should not happen with anyone else in future. The equipment being used by our forces must be the most modern, and updated time to time. It is the duty of the government to ensure safety of those who are protecting this country,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mohit’s father Surinderpal, speaking to The Indian Express over phone from Jorhat, said that all he wants is his son back and he would do everything till he is not found. “I have nothing to say about anything else as of now. I am searching for my son… There is no information yet. No clue about him..All I want is my son back,” he said.

Also among the 13 crew members is Pankaj Sangwan, 22, an airman. A resident of Kohla village in Gohana, in Haryana’s Sonipat district, Pankaj had joined the IAF in 2015.

For the last three days, Pankaj’s parents, friends and relatives are praying for his safety. He is the only son of his parents. “Pankaj had last spoken with his mother on June 2 morning. Since then, there has been no contact. His cousin kept repeatedly trying Pankaj’s mobile phone, but could not get through. IAF officers told us that they were searching for the aircraft. They have not said anything beyond that,” Pankaj’s grandfather Ram Kumar said.

Aircraft remains untraced for third day

The wreckage of the IAF AN-32 aircraft remained untraced for the third straight day on Wednesday although massive multi-agency search operations are going on, officials said. On Wednesday, two Mi-17 and two ALH helicopters, C130J and SU 30 aircraft resumed the search and rescue (SAR) operations, while the Army, ITBP, local police and other state agencies continued with their search on the ground.

IAF PRO Wing Commander Ratnakar Singh said on Wednesday evening, “SAR by helicopters is called off due to low light. It will resume tomorrow morning. Two SUs and C-130Js will be carrying out night missions to locate the missing aircraft.”

With ENS – Chandigarh, Guwahati

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