The nationwide euphoria over the rescue of Lance Naik Hanamanthappa, who was buried alive in an avalanche on the Siachen glacier, has proved short-lived. Hanamanthappa died this morning at the Army's Research & Referral hospital in New Delhi.
''Really sorry to inform everyone that LNk Hanamanthappa is no more. He breathed his last breath at 11:45 am today,'' an Army official said.
He was admitted at the hospital on Tuesday morning and was on a ventilator since (See: Siachen soldier found miraculously alive, now stable). His condition steadily deteriorated due to multiple organ failure.
The soldier of 19 Madras Regiment was rescued alive on Monday night after being buried under 35 feet of snow at an altitude of 19,600 feet for six days, along with nine of his comrades who are also dead. He was flown to Delhi on Tuesday in an Air Force aircraft. The avalanche had buried their camp on 3 February.
''He leaves us sad & devastated. RIP Lance Naik Hanumanthappa. The soldier in you remains immortal. Proud that martyrs like you served India,'' Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
Lance Naik Hanamanthappa, who is survived by his wife and two-year-old daughter, belonged to a farming family in Betadur village, Kundagol taluk of Dharwad district in Karnataka. Six men from this mainly agrarian village had in recent years joined the Army.
The youngest in the family, Lance Naik Hanamanthappa always wanted to join the Army. He grew up the hard way, attending the high school at Aralikatti village by walking 6 km every day. And despite being rejected thrice in the Army recruitment rallies at Belagavi, Dharwad and Gadag, he kept trying and finally managed to get into the 19 Madras Regiment 14 years ago.
Four years ago, he married Mahadevi (Jayashri). Their daughter, Netra, is two years old. His last visit to Betadur was six months ago. His earnings helped him build a house on a government-allotted site in the village.
Just a day before the avalanche, he called his family, ''He had enquired about all of us,'' said his eldest brother, Govindappa, who left for Delhi on Tuesday.
Meanwhile the bodies of nine other soldiers, which have been recovered from the site, are waiting to be the airlifted from Siachen. Officials said bad weather held up their movement.
A pall of gloom descended on Betadur, the hometown of Hanumanthappa. The family began preparations for his funeral. Former chief minister Jagadish Shettar visited Hanumanthappa's family and consoled them.