Old-fashioned human endeavour scored over satellites and radars in locating the wreckage of Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu’s chopper on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Luguthang village panchayat leader Thupten Tsering and some 40 others beat Isro’s satellite imagery and IAF Sukhoi-30s infra-red aerial mapping to locate the wreckage at 16,000ft. Luguthang wasn’t one of the eight spots, six in India and two in Bhutan, that Isro and IAF zeroed in on as possible sites.
Security forces spent the entire day on Tuesday trying to trek to two satellite-guided spots, one (Nagarjiji) in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh and the other north of Thongrong in Bhutan. They found nothing there.
Technical experts and IAF officers attributed the ‘off-target’ infra-red readings to the inclement weather that haunted the hunt. “Cloudy conditions added to the delay in locating the chopper,” a defence spokesperson said.
Not all are convinced with this answer. “Technology and forces can fail for a day or two, but not for five days at a stretch,” said Takam Tatung, president of the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union.
Concerns about India’s technological prowess, particularly with China breathing down the neck, were aired elsewhere in the Northeast too. “We have been hearing about the official version as to the difficulties in conducting search operations due to bad weather. Will this be the same excuse in case of a Chinese invasion?” said John F Kharshiing, the Shillong-based advisor of Federation of Khasi States, an organisation seeking restoration of pre-independence Khasi kingdoms.
“At least the Chinese now know it would take more than a week for India to mobilise its resources in the event of their intrusions,” Kharshiing told HT.Union minister V Narayanasamy, in Itanagar to monitor the chopper rescue operation, admitted there were suggestions to seek Beijing’s help in locating Khandu. "But it was turned down by a panel that included members from Arunachal Pradesh," he said.