JAIPUR: A soldier is never off duty, and Maj Hemant Raj of Sapta Shakti Command, headquartered in Jaipur, proved it, when he flew to , on a leave, but instead of going home, threw himself into the relief work there. He organised a team of defence persons on leave, veterans and local fishermen boats, to help marooned people. This was done unofficially and in his own capacity. He is presently at , which is one of the worst-affected areas, in rehabilitation along with his team of volunteers, some of whom are those he rescued himself.

Talking to TOI from Chengannur, where he is continuing with relief operations, Raj said, “On August 18, I was at Delhi airport to take my flight to Kochi, when I saw the visuals of the flood on television. My flight to Kochi got cancelled but I requested the staff to put me in any flight going to Kerala. I managed to fly to Trivandrum and from there, I got into an IAF aircraft which got me to Chengannur. Since I was in uniform, some soldiers who were on leave there, approached me and we started off with a team of five to six people, comprising of serving and retired defence personnel.”

Post this, Raj and his team of volunteers took boats from the local fishermen and started rescuing locals there. “Gradually, we became a team of 30 and rescued many people some of who also joined us in helping others. All of this is being done unofficially, and no authority has asked for my help, but we are trained soldiers and I knew that I could help, especially since I am a local myself and am better acquainted with the state,” he added

On being asked if he has met his family till now, the officer said, “I was going to surprise them for Onam, but I have not gone home till now. Although the floods have receded, the rehabilitation is just starting, and my being here is more important. People still need the help.”

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