At 20,000 feet, the Siachen Glacier is the highest battleground on earth, where our soldiers not only fight infiltration but harsh gelid winds, arduous terrains, massive snowfields and avalanches. All with thin oxygen levels!
And one couple from Pune is doing everything in their power to help these soldiers breathe easy.
The couple, Sumeedha and Yogesh Chithade sold jewellery worth Rs 1.25 lakh to construct an oxygen-generation plant at 13,000 feet, which will be used to refill the oxygen cylinders used by the Indian Army.
The total cost required to set up the plant is approximately Rs 1.10 crore. Once completed, it will benefit over 9,000 jawans at Siachen.
Though the couple’s contribution may seem small in the big picture, they have become a shining example for civilians who want to do more for the Indian Army, than lip service.
Their love and respect for our jawans also stem from the fact that they are parents to a serving army major. Sumeedha, who has also been working for army welfare since 1999, even sold her earrings to raise funds. She was quick to quip that the army was her family and by that law, charity begins at home!
Speaking to India Today, she said, “I have been working for army welfare since 1999. When I was at the Siachen base camp, I realised that the climate there is extremely harsh. Even in summers, the temperature is at -35 degrees [Celsius] and it drops to -55 in winters. Our soldiers, who plod through 35-40 feet snow at the risk of developing snow blindness and frostbites, are lonely and cut off from their families and friends. It is so easy for us to breathe here, but at 22,000 feet, it is extremely challenging.”
Sumeedha also said that while she had not sold every ornament she owned, they had made a beginning. She would continue to contribute more if required, she added.
Sumeedha works as a school teacher in Pune, while her husband Yogesh Chitade is a retired Indian Air Force personnel, who took premature retirement.
Yogesh said, “Oxygen cylinders brought from Chandigarh are delivered at 22,000 feet. At times, there are no copters to deliver cylinders. When the plant comes up, transportation cost and time will be reduced. The plant will benefit 9,000 soldiers who are doing a great sacrifice by guarding our borders in that area.”
The couple has established a charitable trust and registered it with the Charity Commissioner Office in Pune, which has five other trustees who also to contribute to the cause.
The least every family can do is contribute, in smaller amounts, if not larger feels Yogesh. “Other families should contribute too, at least Re 1 each,” he says, signing off.
We salute the couple’s selfless efforts. May their story inspire more individuals and families to do their bit.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)