This Pune-couple on a mission to help Siachen soldiers breathe
A Pune-based couple, in their 60s, has sold most of their ornaments to install an oxygen plant at the Indian Army's main base camp in Siachen, which will be a huge help to almost 9,000 soldiers posted there. The 76-km-long Siachen glacier, situated at 6,700m, is the world's most inhospitable war zone and several soldiers have died already in avalanche and other mishaps.
Sumeedha Chithade, a school-teacher, got involved in army welfare in 1999, after she visited Siachen and realized that soldiers there have difficulty in doing the most basic thing: breathing. Sumeedha's family is in defense: her son is a serving Army Major and husband Yogesh was previously in the Air Force. She insists that she's not doing anything magnanimous, as army is her 'family'.
Yogesh explained that installing an oxygen plant will cost them a whopping Rs. 1.10crore, and till now they have collected Rs. 1.25L after selling Sumeedha's jewelries. To pull in the massive amount, the Chithades have formed a trust that's registered with the Charity Commissioner Office, Pune. Apart from them, there are five more trustees, including Marathe Jewellers owner and social worker Prakash Kelkar.
Currently, oxygen cylinders are taken to the Siachen base camp from Chandigarh and from there, these are transported to the main base camp, situated at 20,000ft above sea level. Siachen has just one oxygen plant as of now.