286 cadets commissioned as officers
Two hundred and eighty-six gentlemen cadets were commissioned as army officers at the National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla on Saturday.india Updated: May 31, 2008 13:59 IST
Two hundred and eighty-six gentlemen cadets were commissioned as army officers at the National Defence Academy in Khadakwasla on Saturday, in a ceremony that was marred by a brief blackout that Defence Minister AK Antony suffered while taking the salute at the passing out parade that also marked the 60th anniversary of the institution.
Antony was shifted to the NDA hospital and then to the Command Hospital in adjacent Pune where his condition was described as stable.
At the end of the parade, as the cadets, including 14 from Bhutan and Tajikistan, tossed their caps in the air to celebrate their graduation, their proud parents looked on in admiration and then pinned on the lieutenant's badges of rank on the shoulders of the newly commissioned officers.
Under a clear blue sky with the sun shining bright, the cadets of the NDA's 114th course, dressed in their ceremonial white patrol uniforms, stood smartly at attention as the defence minister arrived for the function.
"You must ensure that the lessons which have been imparted to you are not forgotten but used as stepping stones to continuously upgrade your skills," Antony told the cadets after reviewing the parade.
He awarded the President's Gold Medal for merit in academics and sports to Yumnam Romen from Manipur. The coveted honour of champion squadron went to Lima squadron.
The parade then marched past the saluting dais and it was at this stage that the defence minister suddenly collapsed. He slumped into a chair on the the saluting dais, got up but then fell onto the dais. An army officer immediately ran up and carried him to his car parked nearby.
By then, Antony had recovered and insisted on returning to the dais, where NDA commandant Air Marshal T.S. Randhawa had quickly taken the defence minister's place to ensure there was no interruption to the parade. Antony ignored repeated pleas of doctors to get into the car and did so only after the last contingent had marched off the parade ground.
He was then taken to the Military Hospital at NDA where doctors conducted two ECGs, as also a blood test and a cholesterol test. The defence minister was advised six to seven hours of rest. He was subsequently shifted to the Command Hospital here and kept under observation in the cardio-thoracic trauma centre.
"There is no reason for any apprehension. He is completely ok. His hectic schedule, lack of sleep, dehydration and the scorching sun at the passing out parade led him to feel dizzy," Col Deepak Bahadur, the physician who treated him at the NDA hospital, told reporters.
A large number of parents, as also serving and retired defence officers and civilians witnessed the passing out parade.
"I joined NDA as my father was rejected in the interview thrice. It was his dream I make the grade. For me, it is not a job but a way of life," Lt KJ Singh from Punjab told IANS.
The cadets displayed their aerobatic skills during a flypast of three Super Dimona gliders that turned out to be one of the star attractions of the parade.
This was followed by a flypast by three Indian Air Force Sukhoi-30MKI and three Jaguar combat jets.
The newly commissioned officers will be awarded a bachelor's degree by New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).
During his address, Antony dealt with the concerns expressed by the armed forces over the raw deal they have received from the Sixth Pay Commission that has revised the pay scales of government employees - and told the cadets they would be well looked after.
"We in the government are aware of the tough conditions of service and other problems you face and have taken several measures to bring about improvements, including new accommodation facilities and liberalised leave rules.
"I am sure that you will find that the quality of life you all will enjoy is materially better than what your seniors experienced during their early days," Antony said.
This January, only 192 cadets turned up to join NDA against the 300 that had been chosen for the three-year course.
NDA commandant Air Marshal T.S. Randhawa shrugged this off.
"For the course that begins in January, we generally have been receiving fewer candidates as compared to the course that commences in July. Currently, we are only short of 50 cadets against our sanctioned strength of 1,800," Randhawa told reporters.