At Independence, the British decided to take along four regiments of Gurkhas with them, including the only two (the 7th and 10th Gurkha Rifles) recruiting the Rais and Limbus from Eastern Nepal (or Kirantis as they’re known).
To their surprise, a large number of men from these two regiments refused to accompany the British preferring to serve in India. Since none of the other Gurkha regiments (the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th and 9th Gurkha Rifles) recruited this sub-class it was decided to re-raise a World War 1 regiment, the 11th Gorkha Rifles.
Rajendra Nath, a young man from Hoshiarpur was one of the first two Indian officers to be commissioned unto the new regiment. All officers were new to the Gorkhas these regiments having been officered exclusively by the British. They faced two sets of challenges, firstly having to prove to their troops that they were as good as their former British officers. In addition, they had to create institutions and traditions to see the new entity into the future. Hard work and an attitude open to learning saw to the first. In this they were greatly helped by experienced JCOs, NCOs and officers promoted from within the ranks. These last included Major Man Bahadur Rai who won a MC and IDSM with 1/10 GR in Burma and the Ashoka Chakra in Nagaland.
Rajendra Nath remembers that they developed a sensitive regimental spirit and worked harder than others at excelling in courses, exercises, training, operations, professional competitions, games and on extra-regiment appointments. Their assets were their own willpower and the experience of their troops most of whom had fought in North Africa, Italy and Burma during World War 2. The regiment had a lot of decorated soldiers, including Captain Ganju Lama, VC, MM, late 1/7 GR. In fact, Rajendra Nath as a company commander on the cease-fire line in Rajauri sector had three gallantry awardees in his headquarters alone. The fact that the Kirantis of 11 GR are held in high esteem by the rest of the army today bears testimony to this hard work combined with the determination never to be second to anyone. Rajendra Nath after reaching the rank of major general retired to become one of the foremost military writers. He remembers those heady days in the regiment as the happiest time of his life.
MODERNISATION OF AIRFIELD INFRASTRUCTURE
Bathinda is the first airfield to be covered under the Rs 2,500 crore Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI) project. Sixtyseven military airfields are to be modernised to facilitate all-weather low visibility operations where aircraft can take-off and land in visibility as low as 300 metres.
MAFI caters to an instrument landing system that permits category II landings and an airfield lighting arrangement that deploys runway lighting in a particular pattern that guides aircraft to the touchdown point. Provision has been made for two 70 KVA generators that can carry the load for all the electrical and electronic equipment on the airbase in case of power outage. The project is being implemented by Tata Power Strategic Electronics Division. Bathinda is currently home to the air force’s 34 Wing with Number 17 Squadron under command. By the end of 2016, 30 IAF and IN bases would have been covered under the scheme.
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