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Lt Gen HS Banga passes away…

Originally posted on 16 Jan 2012 :

The first phone call this morning, (16 Jan 2012) was from Maj Gen Subramanian (Subi) and he informed me of the sad demise of Lt Gen HS Banga. The name inspires awe in the minds of his countless admirers. I have known him ever since I joined the army, fifty years ago. He was on the staff of EME School, when we went there as Young Officers. I am tempted to write a few words about this grand old soldier-engineer. This piece is from my memory and without referring to any document. If there are any errors or omissions in this, I would like to be corrected.

 

Lt Gen Harbhajan Singh Banga, PVSM VSM (1924-2012)

 

They say, that “it is easy to climb to the top of a ladder, but difficult to stay there”. This is an account of a person who was began his military life as the course topper in the First Technical Graduates course in 1948, and retain that place all through his service, both in war and peace. For his distinguished service in the Armoured Division during the 1965 war, he was awarded a VSM. He also participated in the 1971 war in the Eastern Sector, and his services were considered commendable by all his comrades.

After retiring from the army as the DGEME in 1982, he joined Ashok Leyland and he served as a Plant Director, first in Alawar (Rajasthan) and then in Hosur (Tamil Nadu). After about seven years in Leyland, he could very well afford to revert to a life of Golf and ‘chhota peg’ but there was still a lot of fire in his belly. The Hindujas motivated him to head their hospital in Mumbai, and he became the first non-medico to be the CEO of  the Hinduja Hospital. During his decade long stint with the hospital, he acquired so much knowledge of the medical science, that he was often invited to preside over their seminars and discussions. He finally threw in his towel in 1998, when he was just a few months shy of his 75 th birthday. He had, by then, completed more than fifty years of active service in a variety of organizations.

Son of an eminent doctor, Gen Banga passed on the family tradition of excellence to his two illustrious sons, Manvinder (Vindi) and Ajaypal. The elder son, Manvinder won the gold medal in IIT Delhi in 1973, and repeated the enviable feat in IIM Ahmedabad. He then joined Hindustan Lever and rose to become the CEO of the company. Vindi ended up as the Chairman of the parent company, Unilever in the UK. Gen Banga’s younger son, Ajaypal is a graduate from the Delhi University and an MBA from IIM Ahemedabad. Ajay has risen to head the  Mastercard as the President and CEO in the USA. Both the brothers find a place of honor in the Wikipedia.

Gen Banga travelled to all corners of the world. He had seen the corporate world from close proximity, and saw his sons rise to enviable levels in Industry. And yet, when we asked him as to what he would like to do if he were to start his life all over again, he said, “I would like to join the army!” He faded away with no regrets in life. What he has left behind is a legacy which should inspire the likes of me and you.

I owe a personal debt of gratitude  to Gen Banga. When I retired from the Army in 1997, Ashok Leyland accepted me with open arms, mainly because of his spoken reputation. Nearly every one in the company held him in high esteem, and that made it easier for me to find my feet in the corporate world. A similarity in external appearance was also of great help!

May the soul of this grand icon of the Indian army rest in peace, and may his kith and kin follow in his footsteps. I salute him as my teacher and mentor.

 

Lt  Gen (Retd) Harbhajan Singh Banga, PVSM, VSM (Born – 24 Sep 1924 , Died – 22 Dec 2011) It is a sad news for all of us in olive green that we have lost one more of that rare breed of Gentlemen-Soldiers.

Gen  Banga  came from an illustrious family.  His father, Dr Gyan Singh was an eminent doctor. Following in the foot steps of his elders, Gen Offr excelled in both professional and academics front. He began  his military life as the course topper in the First Technical Graduates course in Dec 1948. During his career spanning  more than four decades, he attended most of the prestigious courses. He firstly attended the course in UK when he was Capt in 1959. As a Maj and Lt Col he was posted to 512 ABW, where the technical acumen of Gen Offr was appreciated by one and all. For his distinguished services in the Armoured Division during the 1965 war, he was awarded  Visisht Seva Medal. In 1970 he served as Dy DEME as Brig and subsequently participated in 1971 war in the Eastern Sector.  The Gen Offr was the Director General of Corps of EME from Mar 1978 to Mar 1982, when he was decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal.

After retiring from the Army in 1982, he joined Ashok Leyland and served for about seven years as  Plant Director first in Alwar (Rajasthan) and then in Hosur (Tamil Nadu).  Thereafter, the Gen Offr was head of the administration of Hindujas hospital in Mumbai and became the first non-medico to be the CEO. During his decade long service with the hospital, he acquired so much knowledge of the medical science, that he was often invited to preside over seminars and discussions.  Gen Banga was the epitome of  professionalism , both while  in service and in the industry.

Gen Banga is survived by his wife Mrs Jaswant Banga, their two sons Manvinder and Ajaypal and their daughter Deepa. Manvinder, known as ‘Vindi Banga’ is a god medallist from IIT Delhi and a topper from IIM Ahmedabad. He rose to be the Chairman of Unilever. Ajaypal is a graduate from St Stephens, Delhi and topped the class in IIM Ahmedabad. He is an internationally recognised speaker.

  The General Officer enjoyed an illustrious career even after leaving uniform.  His memory will be cherished by the EME fraternity.

Messages Received from Eminent Personalities 

*             Lt     Gen (Retd) C Sundara Rao, PVSM, Ex DGEME

I first met Capt Banga when     he returned  after attending  a course in the UK. Later in 1959/60,     when I was Comdt 512ABW he joined me as a Major & then picked up the     rank of Lt Col. In 1970/71 when I was the DEME he joined me as Dy DEME in     the rank of Brig. He was my successor’s successor as DEME. Please convey     our condolences to his wife Jaswant Ji and his sons and daughter.

*             Maj     Gen (Retd) Gurdayal Singh

His admirers are innumerable     in numbers.  May his soul rest in     Peace. He indeed was a great Role Model for EME officers.

*             Mr     Srikant Srinivasan, Corporate HR, Ashok Leyland Ltd

Gen Banga was the epitome     of  professionalism  both while      in OG and in civvy street. I have very pleasant memories of the time     I worked under him at Hosur. He seamlessly fitted into Corporate world and     by his qualities of mind & heart      endeared himself to many of us at Ashok Leyaland.  Even as I write this, I can sense his     towering presence, quiet demeanour, careful and attentive listening, the     dignity and  concern that he showed     to everyone from the GM to the junior most operator.

Mrs Jaswant Banga may be reached at : H No-80, Sector-37, Arun Vihar, NOIDA

 

     

 

  1. Ajay Banga says:

    Dear Uncle
    Thanks very much for you kind and warm words and more importantly for your depth of feelings about Dad … He was remarkable in so many ways, not least of which was his humility in the face of his successes.. A lesson many can learn from at all times
    I think your article on him was excellent and frankly I don’t think I can add much more to the insights you have already provided .. Thanks for doing so
    Best wishes
    Ajay

  2. Moises says:

    Asking questions are really good thing if you are not understanding anything fully, however this article
    offers pleasant understanding yet.

  3. Inderpal Sandhu says:

    Thanks for the obituary and the pictures of Gen. Banga. I was surfing the web for more information about the Gen. and lo! what I found !. Perhaps you might have seen it before but just in case –, I am sending it as an attachment titled ‘NDA’.

    I graduated from Punjab Engineering College,Roorkee,UP. !!!

    The Punjab of five rivers, had only one Engineering College, at Lahore, named, Maclagan Engineering College. Now, as I understand, there are over sixty engineering colleges in the truncated Punjab.

    After partition, East Punjab was left with no Engineering College. I was to take my final BA (Math & Physics) exam in April of 1947 from The Khalsa College, Amritsar. The city had become a victim of pre-partition arson, looting and violence. We could see the fires from the hostel roof tops. The university exam was postponed to next year (1948). The new East Punjab University, made arrangements to share the facilities of Thomson Engineering College. An abandoned nurses hostel, near by, was used to house the new batch of engineers.

  4. EME Journal Team says:

    Sir,

    1. A copy of the obituary and the final print of EME Journal (with obituary and the editorial note on page 51 ) are att as desired pl.

    2. An individual photograph of the Gen Offr is also being retrieved from the archives and will be fwd to you shortly.

    regards,

    Editorial Team

    EME Journal

  5. Inderpal Sandhu says:

    Do you have a photo of General Banga?

  6. Dev says:

    We will obviously miss this grand old soldier- engineer !

    No doubt I too have been a strong admirer of Gen Banga. In fact I had several special moments with him during my YOs which I recall with pride and honor. Most recently I met him briefly during the EME Reunion and amazingly he recognized me and was extremely gracious.

    What a proud father he must have been of his two sons who have done so well in life. Thanks for sharing this information – Gen Banga and his family achievements clearly represent a model for all others to emulate.

    If you get in touch with Gen Banga’s family please convey our condolences as well.

  7. Anil Das says:

    Thank you for the most moving and heart touching E-mail. General Banga was special to us too. What with him and Mrs Banga being instrumental in doing “KANYA DAN” for Kerstin Das way back in 1962-63 when my parents married. He was always talked of with reverence and remembered so very fondly. His two sons are still close friends with my elder sisters and my brother in law. In fact my brother in law (Rita’s husband Sandeep Kamat) represented the Das family at the funeral.

    Becuase he is so dear to my father we have not yet informed him. Shall do so in some time. This is in view of his own health and mindset.

    Like Gen Banga, another favoured name in the Das household is that of General Surjit. We do remember you and Ma’am fondly.

    I am commanding 16 Corps Zone Workshop in Nagrota. In case I can be of any assistance, please do let me know.

  8. SURENDRA T.S says:

    May God give his family the strength to bear this irreparable loss. May his soul rest in peace

  9. Manmohan Singh says:

    Thank u for ur mail conveying so very promptly the news of Gen Banga’s sad demise..

    No one struck chord with so many of us in the Corps & even out side as he did in his life time.
    In fact as a head of the corps, he no only became a patriarch extraordinary but an examplery role model to us. Persons like him come up once in a while & remain in our thought for good. With a deep sense of gratitude to him for all he did for our EME and the Army in general, we shall continue to miss him a great deal.

    May God bless his soul. Our heart felt condolence to Mrs Banga & the family.

    I could not spk to Mrs Banga but was able to talk to Ajay yesterday. Thanks.

  10. J Thomas says:

    Thanks, Surjit.
    A grand old man.
    May his soul rest in peace.

  11. kulbir singh says:

    You are a legend by itself. Great personality who has been so very sincere all his life and devoted to praising his colleagues.

    I salute you.

  12. Bhanu Kumar Rai says:

    I am deeply grieved to hear of the passing away of one of my oldest friends who not only rose to the top but was always very caring and affectionate to his friends. I last visited him at his house in NOIDA before shifting to Bangalore. We were in the same college and the same hostel (Benares). He was two years my senior. We kept in regular touch all through till I moved out of Delhi.

    I join a very large number of his grieving friends and admirers.

  13. SURENDRA T.S says:

    In Gen Banga’s passing away, we have lost a person with extraordinary vision. I have had the privilege of serving under him at the MCEME and again at the Army Headquarters (EME Dte those days).

    May God give his family the strength to bear this irreparable loss. May his soul rest in peace

  14. Srikant Srinivasan says:

    Thanks for a very touching write up on Gen Banga. Like you, I was very upset to hear about his passing away .

    Gen Banga was the epitome of professionalism , both while in OG and in civvy street . I have very pleasant memories of the time I worked under him at Hosur. He seamlessly fitted into Corporate world and by his qualities of mind & heart endeared himself to many of us at AL. Even as I write this mail, I can sense his towering presence, quiet demeanour, careful& attentive listening, the dignity & concern that he showed to everyone from the GM to the junior-most operator . It’s a pity that we have lost one more of that rare breed of ‘ gentleman-soldiers ’ .

    I pray the Almighty grants him eternal peace and that the Almighty gives all his near & dear ones courage to bear this loss with fortitude.

    Yours in grief,
    Srikant Srinivasan

  15. Col Rakesh Sachdeva (Retd) says:

    Please accept my compliments on a word perfect piece.
    Salutations!

  16. Jasdev Singh says:

    Sad to hear of this, dad . Loved reading the piece you have put together

  17. sundara rao says:

    Thanks for the moving msg sent by U.

    I first met Capt Banga when he returned after attending a course in the UK. Later in 1959/60, when I was Comdt 512ABW he joined me as a Major & then picked up the rank of Lt Col. In 1970/71 when I was the DEME he joined me as Dy DEME in the rank of Brig. He was my successor’s successor as DEME.

    Pl convey our condolrnces to his wife, Jaswant Ji & sons, Vindi & Ajay.

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