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Exclusive: Meet Maj. Hemant, the ‘On Leave’ Soldier Who Saved Hundreds in Kerala!

“I don’t worry about if I get punished for this. The need of the hour was to save lives. And if I have to bear the consequences for it, I will do so with pride,”

A soldier is never off-duty, they say, and exemplifying this belief is Major Hemant Raj, who was on leave, but spent it saving thousands of lives in Kerala.

Major Raj was on his way to his hometown in Kerala when he heard that his state had been severely affected by floods. “I got to know that my family members were in relief camps and my village was completely flooded. I was also informed that my flight to Kochi was cancelled,” the Major told IANS.

But that didn’t stop him from requesting an airline to accommodate him in their flight to Thiruvananthapuram. The airline complied, and soon, he was in the state, arranging for transport and on his way to save lives.

Speaking to The Better India, Major Raj, said that he was simply one peg of the wheel.

Source: Twitter/Subodh Srivastava.

“There are certain stories that I need to tell you that haven’t come out anywhere. There were 3-4 unsung heroes- college students who set up a virtual control room here for the Army and the Air Force. They have saved hundreds of lives!”


GiveIndia and The Better India have come together to help Rebuild Kerala by supporting 41,000 affected families. You too can be a part of this movement and help us raise funds for the NGOs working to rehabilitate these families. If all of us come together with a small monthly contribution, we can make a real and meaningful difference in helping restore normalcy to those who need our help the most.

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It was Squadron Leader Ansha, posted in Chengannur, who was responsible for bringing together the group of students. Initially posted to distribute relief supplies to camps and stranded people, the IAF officer also co-ordinated with the students. Corporal Manu Nair, who was on leave at the time, also assisted in this operation.

The college students—Nirmal K George Mathew, Sherry PS, Shine T Shaji, Anugraha Sunny, Nissy T Shaji and Ashley Jacob—were the backbone the operation begun by Major Raj.

After they were rescued by the army man, they brought with them laptops, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets. Together, they set up a control room for the Major’s team so all the calls he received could be verified and redirected.

“They operated the control room for seven days without sleeping,” Major Raj informed TBI.

The students and the Major share a meal. Courtesy: Maj Hemant Raj.

“You see, my number was verified and so I was receiving hundreds of distress calls asking me to save people. Since it was impossible for me to respond and react to each one them, and as students are locals, they could understand the place and pin the call to the location. So I gave them my phone and connected their number to mine. These brilliant students set up a virtual control room. They used to verify each call they got and passed on the information to us. That’s how I knew where to go for a rescue,” he explained.


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While the students set up a control room to guide Major Raj, he organised a team of other army personnel on leave, retired officers etc. who could take fishermen boats into the flooded areas of Chengannur.

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“A rescue helicopter dropped me at Chengannur. I was in my uniform, and a few army personnel who were also on leave and a few retired army and air force officers approached me.

They were waiting in a college that was turned into a relief camp. So I made a team of them, and we all took fishermen boats into the flooded areas,” said Major Raj.

Courtesy: Maj Hemant Raj.

He explains that he wore his uniform even though he was on leave, breaking standard protocol in the process, because it inspires trust.

“I don’t worry about if I get punished for this. The need of the hour was to save lives. And if I have to bear the consequences for it, I will do so with pride,” he says.

The team assembled by Major Raj took charge of many areas in Chengannur and soon enough, they were rescuing people and bringing them to relief camps.

As they spent hours on the ground, saving lives, their phone batteries drained out and affected communication. “I know radio jockeys. We requested Anjali Uthup (renowned singer Usha Uthup’s daughter) to appeal for power banks and high-power boats in her shows,” Major Raj told IANS.

The request worked, and several people provided them with the necessary equipment to keep their phones charged and the rescue operations active.

Courtesy: Maj Hemant Raj.

Major Raj believes that the true heroes of this operation were Ansha, Manu and the students. Without their help, perhaps, he and his team would be lost or playing guessing games in affected locations.

Hundreds of people were calling on one cell phone number every minute. Without a proper control room, many would have gone unaddressed. “I want to take them in the Navy, Army or the Air Force. They were doing the duty of the control rooms. This shows their leadership qualities,” the Major says, with barely concealed pride.


GiveIndia and The Better India have come together to help Rebuild Kerala by supporting 41,000 affected families. You too can be a part of this movement and help us raise funds for the NGOs working to rehabilitate these families. If all of us come together with a small monthly contribution, we can make a real and meaningful difference in helping restore normalcy to those who need our help the most.

Unable to view the above button? Click here


While we thought that the Major’s story of utilising his leave to save lives was inspiring, he shed light on those who were instrumental in organising the rescue mission.

Young college students, without any training, took charge of a situation that was seemingly beyond their control. The acts of bravery, determination and brilliance that have emerged out of the Kerala floods never fail to amaze!

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

Feature image source: Twitter.

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