Service No : 15320520X
Service : Army
Last Rank : Sapper
Unit : 18 Engr Regt
Arm/Regt : The Corps of Engineers
Operation : CI & IS Ops
Martyrdom : September 8, 2005
Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi belonged to the 18 Engr Regt of the Corps of Engineers, one of the oldest arms of the Indian Army. The corps was established in the year 1780 when the two regular pioneer companies of the Madras Sappers were raised. Subsequently, the Group of Madras, Bengal and Bombay Sappers were formed and later merged on 18 November 1932 to form the Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers consisting of three major constituents namely Combat Engineers, MES (Military Engineering Service) and Border Roads also provided officers to the Military Survey and Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO).
The main role of combat engineers was to provide mobility to own forces by constructing bridges, tracks and helipads; on the other hand denying the same to the enemy by creating obstacles such as laying mine-fields and demolition of bridges. Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi's unit 18 Engr Regt had the expertise in constructing bridges and tracks and was equipped with the required men and material.
Bailey Bridge Collapse : 08 Sep 2005
During 2005, Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi was serving with 18 Engr Regt located in Chandi Mandir in Punjab. In June 2005, Indian Army was tasked to reconstruct four new bridges at Kharo, Khab (15 km from Pooh on way to Kaurik, the last point on the crucial highway), Leo and Akpa which were washed away in floods of Parechu lake. Akpa which was located near the Sutlej river of Punjab, was the main link from Reckong Peo to the upper areas of Pooh, Sumdo, Spiti and other areas of Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts. It was also considered as the lifeline of upper Kinnaur. In Sep 2005, Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi's team of 18 Engr Regt was tasked to reconstruct the bridge at Kharo, located on the National Highway 22, also known as the Hindustan-Tibet Road, the lifeline of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh.
On 08 Sep 2005, Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi and 40 other soldiers under the command of Lt Col Amardeep Singh began the operation after carefully assessing the condition. The bridge was launched successfully after the crucial first stage was completed. In the second stage, the wooden slabs were to be fixed on iron beams of the 80-tonne and 60-metre long bridge. Lt Col Amardeep Singh also ordered his men to recheck the nuts and bolts that were fixed in between the iron beams of the bridge. However, when the soldiers of 18 Engineers Regiment were fixing the wooden slabs on iron beams, the bridge suddenly collapsed from the centre, possibly due to some technical fault. As a result, all the soldiers fell into the river except for four of them, who were wearing safety belts. A rescue operation was launched by the Army immediately on receiving information about the incident and MI-17 helicopter from Sarsawa and Cheetah helicopters from Jalandhar were pressed into service. The divers from special forces were airlifted from Nahan and were dropped at Karcham to look for survivors.
The rescue teams had to brave conditions which were extremely challenging and demanding due to the deep gorges and rapid currents of the Satluj river. The bodies eventually could be traced after a long drawn rescue operation. Besides Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi, the other 33 brave hearts who lost their lives included Lt Col Amardeep Singh, Capt MM Bokil, Hav C Ramachandran, Hav Sasi Kumar V, Hav A Arokia Dass, Nb Sub NV Mandadi, Hav R Muniappan, Nk Mali Reddy V, Nk Jagadeesan B, Spr Sridharan J, Spr Natesan L, Spr Suresh K, Hav Raviselvan P, Spr Suresh V, Spr J Suresh Kumar, Spr P Saravana Kumar, Spr MR Bhasha, Spr Lakshmi Kanth M, Spr Srinivasan M, Spr M Sundaravadhanam, Spr Rangarao, Spr Manjunath Shivalli, Spr S Muthuraj, Spr Raja Velu S, Spr Krishnappa K, Spr K Malabannavar, Spr Palani A, Spr Sankar, Spr Adiveppa Hudali, Spr T Jeyachandran, Spr Sarveypalli SK, Spr VVN Govardhan Gantala and Spr N Gangadhar.
Sapper R Sanjai Gandhi was a brave and dedicated soldier, who laid down his life in the line of his duty.