Chief Aircrew Flight Diver CHA(FD) Haridas Kundu has not only rescued flood victims as a diver but also served the dual task of helping the flying officers as a winch operator during Operation Varsha Rahat, rescue and relief operations related to the flood in Kerala last year, for which he is bestowed with the Nau Sena Medal this Independence Day.
Unfolding his experience of undertaking flood rescue and relief operations in Thekkady boat tragedy at Kerala, Ockhi Cyclone in Trivandrum and Belagavi food relief, the brave sea warrior narrated how he saved 113 lives altogether.
Exclusively speaking to News Sense, CHA (FD) Haridas said, “In Belgaum, the high tension cable was only 20 feet opposite to us and the wind was pushing us towards the cable. A small cemented surface was available to lower the winch basket for picking up the victims. The pilot had to keep shifting to the other side and it was difficult to operate the winch basket as it constantly moved with the weight”.
While giving detailed reports about meeting two different types of people during such crisis, CHA(FD) Kundu mentioned, “One group of people wanted to get saved while others wished to stay back to protect their property. Picking and choosing these people were very difficult for us. We instructed them to wave flags or use smoke to seek attention so that we could help faster.”
“Tungabhadra river was raging. The bridge had fallen. The island was marooned and had no connectivity with the mainland. After a reconnaissance, we were lowered. I was disembarked in a highland. By that time we had received an information that a boat of NDRF has toppled and men waiting to be rescue,” he said.
37 year old resident of North 24 Parganas and currently posted at 322 Flight in INS Hansa, Goa, Haridas strongly believes that, “Victory depends on each and every person of an unit working together.”
“The main challenge was working at night and handling the crowd of 200 tourists. Instruction were given to have a sequence based on priority and protocol. The ladies, children, senior citizen and men were rescued in order,” CHA(FD) Kundu said.
CHA(FD) Haridas Kundu had to get down 150 feet from Navy chopper facing the challenging winds and strong current. Narrating his adventure Haridas said, “We were successful to reach out to the victims after three to four attempts.”
“Because of gusty winds the flow of water was very strong. There were obstructions like high tension cable and large trees. Decision making at that point was really important as it was a life-risk,” he described.
When floods ravaged lives of people living in neighbouring districts Belgaum in Karnataka and Kolhapur in Maharashtra, the first hands to reach them for ‘Rahat’ were that of brave Navy pilots and divers from Indian Naval Station (INS) Hansa based in Goa, who saved 2364 lives and 2390 kgs of logistics support under the ‘Operation Varsha Rahat’. CHA(FD) Haridas Kundu alone had saved 89 lives in Belgaum and 24 lives in Trivandrum.