Padma Shri recipient and founder of the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre Major Hari Pal Singh Ahluwalia passed away on Friday evening. He was the chairman and founder of the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) in Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, a hospital he founded after a spinal injury. The retired army officer, trained mountaineer, author and social worker contributed immensely in various fields, including adventure, sports, environment, disability and social work.
Major HPS Ahluwalia was an instructor at the High Altitude Warfare School of the Indian Army but went to the front in the 1965 war with Pakistan. His unit came under fire and a bullet entered his neck and damaged his spine. For years later, Major Ahluwalia endured a long, painful and imperfect recovery. The lack of expertise in India in spinal injuries’ treatments led him to set up the ISIC.
Mountaineering remained his subject forever. He was part of the first Indian team to reach the top of Mt Everest in 1965. He wrote over 13 books, including his autobiography Higher Than Everest. He also served as a former president of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation and the Delhi Mountaineering Association.
For the past many years, Major Ahluwalia kept himself in giving tips to budding mountaineers and a new lease of life to the differently-abled. Despite his debilitating injury, he continued to pursue his love for adventure by organising events such as the Silk Route Expedition (1994), say reports. He was honoured with Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri and the Arjuna Award. He also received the Tenzing Norgay National Adventure Award.
Major Ahluwalia was also one of the few observers who spoke about climate change first. In an interview to a newspaper in 2009, he acknowledged global warming and the negative impact of glacial melting on Indian rivers. As the then president of the Indian Mountaineering Federation, he proposed a joint scientific expedition with China to study glaciers and the source of rivers at Mt. Kailash and Mansarovar, he told the newspaper.
Major HPS Ahluwalia was 85, and is survived by his wife, Bholi Ahluwalia and daughter Sugandh Ahluwalia.