India will bid a tearful farewell to Siachen hero Hanamanthappa Koppad on Friday when his last rites are performed at his native village in Karnataka with full state honours including a 21-gun salute.
The 33-year-old lance naik of the Indian Army passed away in a hospital in Delhi on Thursday, ten days after he miraculously survived an avalanche in the icy heights of Siachen which also killed nine of his fellow-soldiers.
The survival and rescue of Hanamanthappa from under a 35-feet ice sheet had gripped the nation’s attention and sparked patriotic frenzy among the people unseen since the 1999 Kargil war.
The soldier is survived by his wife and two-year-old daughter.
Karnataka minister Vinay Kulkarni said all preparations are complete for the funeral of Hanamanthappa at Betadur village of Dharwad district.
On Thursday night, chief minister Siddaramaiah received the mortal remains of the soldier at Hubballi airport from where it was taken to KIMS hospital. The coffin draped in the Tricolour was later shifted to the Nehru Ground for public viewing in the morning before it was transported to the village.
Paying his last respects, Siddaramaiah announced a relief of Rs 25 lakh to the next of kin of the martyr.
“We are giving 25 lakh as compensation, two acres of wet land or four acres of dry land and job to one dependent of the family,” Siddaramaiah told the media.
In Betadur, hundreds of people gathered at the house of Hanamanthappa overnight to mourn his death.
When Hanamanthappa’s mortal remains were brought by road from Hubbali airport around midnight, his extended family plunged into grief.
The state government will also pay hefty compensation to families of two other soldiers from the state -- sepoy Mahesha from Mysuru district and subedar Nagesha from Hassan district -- who perished in the same mishap atop Siachen.
“We are pained because we thought he will recover in one or two days and come back. We prayed to all gods but in vain. His family is shattered,” Hanamanthappa’s neighbour Manjunath told reporters, weeping inconsolably.
Koppad belonged to the 19th battalion of Madras Regiment, which he joined 13 years ago after failing to get through into the army on three occasions in past.
Hanamanthappa was posted on the Siachen glacier since August 2015 and deployed at one of the highest posts (Sonam) facing Pakistan and where temperatures plunge to minus 40 degrees Celsius and winds blow up to 100-km per hour.