Air Chief designate’s Purulia connection

AIR MARSHAL ARUP RAHA STUDIED AT PURULIA SAINIK SCHOOL; HAD NAGALAND CHIEF MINISTER NEIPHIU RIO AS BATCH MATE

By bappaditya paul

The announcement that Air Marshal Arup Raha will be the India’s next Air Chief has given a reason to the Maoist insurgency-hit backward district of Purulia in West Bengal to cheer.

Air Marshal Arup Raha
Air Marshal Arup Raha

The Purulia Sainik School located at Maguria off Purulia town happens to be the alma metar of Air Marshal Raha, who studied at this residential school in the 1970’s.  With this, the school has joined ranks with two other Sainik schools in the country ~ the one located at Kunjpura in Haryana and the other at Satara in Maharashtra ~ which had given two Service Chiefs to the country in General Deepak Kapoor and Air Chief Marshal P V Naik.

Purulia Sainik SchoolThe news of Air Marshal Raha being named the Air Chief designate was welcomed with much joy in the Purulia Sainik School, which hailed this as a major achievement. “While other schools dream of shaping the future of students, we dream that our students will shape the country. This news would immensely motivate everyone in this school,’ said Col B S Ghorpade, the school principal. ‘It is a big achievement for West Bengal too,” he said.

There is another twist to the story: when Air Marshal Raha was studying at the Purulia Sainik School in the 1970’s, he had a batch mate in Mr Neiphiu Rio, the present Chief Minister of Nagaland. The alumni of the school identify themselves as “Esspeans’.Purulia Sainik School logoWhen the school celebrated its golden jubilee in January last year, Air Marshal Raha, who was then the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Central Air Command, graced the occasion as the chief guest. “Now, the alumni are eagerly awaiting the next reunion due in mid-January next year, and are looking forward to fete the new IAF Chief, who has brought immense glory to the school,” said Col A Sikdar, a former classmate.

The Purulia Sainik School was established on 29 January 1962 at Bongabari near Purulia town and it was relocated to a 280-acre campus at Maguria on Purulia-Ranchi Road in 1966. It is one the 24 schools across India that are run by the Ministry of Defence.

(The author is on the staff of The Statesman, India. This report first appeared in The Statesman on 31 October 2013.)

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