Former Defence Minister George Fernandes, who visited Siachen 18 times, passes away in Delhi
New Delhi, Jan 29: Former Defence Minister George Fernandes passed away after prolonged illness in Delhi on Tuesday. He was aged 88.
Native of Mangaluru in Karnataka, George Fernandeswas a key member of the Janata Dal and is the founder of the Samata Party. He has held several ministerial portfolios including communications, industry, railways, and defence.
He rose to fame as an anti-Emergency crusader and civil rights activists and served as a Union Minister in the Janata Party government headed by Morarji Desai that came to power in 1977 to 1980.
Fernandes served as the Defence Minister of India in both the second and third National Democratic Alliance governments (1998-2004). During his tenure as the defence minister, the Kargil war over Kashmir broke out between India and Pakistan in 1999.
Fernandes has been the only defence minister of a nuclear power who has had a picture of Hiroshima bombing in his office. He has made 18 visits to the icy heights of the 6,600 metres (4.1 mi) Siachen glacier in Kashmir, which holds the record of being "the world's highest battlefield".
He was known for overseeing a huge increase in India's defence budget as compared to the allocations made by previous governments.
Fernandes is reported to be suffering from Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, and in January 2010 was undergoing treatment at Baba Ramdev's ashram at Haridwar for the diseases at the request of his ex-wife Leila Kabir.
George Fernandes in Kargil
In this Nov 18, 2001 file photo the then defence minister George Fernandes takes a view through a heavy machine gun, seized from the Pakistan army in Kargil. Veteran socialist George Fernandes, who was the defence minister in the NDA government headed by the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, passed away Tuesday, Jan 29, 2019, following a prolonged illness. . PTI file photo
George Fernandes in Siachen
In this Nov 18, 2001 file photo the then defence minister George Fernandes interacts with the jawans at Gulab outpost during his visit to Siachen. Veteran socialist George Fernandes was the defence minister in the NDA government headed by the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. PTI file photo
George Fernandes in the cockpit of an MiG-21
In this Aug 1, 2003 file photo the then defence minister George Fernandes is seen inside the cockpit of an MiG-21 after completing a sortie, at Ambala Air Force Station. PTI file photo
George Fernandes briefing media
In this Dec 30, 2004 file photo the then JD (U) President George Fernandes briefs the media after visiting the Tsunami affected areas, in New Delhi, Thursday. PTI file photo