The uniformed forces' humanitarian efforts in Uttarakhand have been of a very high order. Within the space available to me, it's nearly impossible to give an account of the endeavours made by every unit of the army, IAF, ITBP and NDRF. Therefore I've selected the efforts of the 5th Sikh Regiment as an example. 5 Sikh has won honours on battlefields as far apart in time and space as La Bassee (France, 1914) and Chhamb (J&K, 1971), and now they were working in a totally different sphere of humanitarian work.
At Rudraprayag, the incessant rains made it clear to 5 Sikh's commanding officer, Colonel Rajiv Mehta, by June 16 that disaster was looming. He sensitised the civil administration. Advance preparations were made and coordination carried out with the district administration. Thus they were ready to tackle the emergency when it came on the night of June 16-17.
The Rudraprayag-Kedarnath land route being severely damaged and critical bridges washed away, rescue columns from 5 Sikh were inducted through civil aviation helicopters. The CO carried out an aerial reconnaissance and made an appreciation providing detailed information of the devastation and requirements. The army was quick to react. Within 36 hours, the infrastructure, specialised troops, equipment, and command and control structure were in place, Gauchar being designated the support base for the Kedarnath rescue operation.
The paratroopers having constructed a helipad at Jungle Chatti, evacuation through helicopters started on June 21. Also, having established the narrowness of the time-window open for evacuation, 5 Sikh started moving people on foot. Highly motivated teams under Captains Bikramjeet and Abhishek were despatched to open the land route between Jungle Chitti and Sonprayag. A makeshift footbridge was constructed over the river Mandakini, and people were motivated to walk the distance, 4,000 evacuated this way. Mehta and his men did not rest till the last survivor had been evacuated from Kedarnath at 1800 hours on June 23. Their total commitment can be seen from the fact that the troops carried many elderly people on their backs.
For the survivors, a deliverance from death at the hands of the forces of nature. For 5 Sikh, and the armed and paramilitary forces, just another day at work, reiterating their total commitment to the nation and its people.
Indian Victoria Cross winners from WW-1
For a long time, the Indian Order of Merit, Class 1, was the highest gallantry award admissible to Indian soldiers, and they became eligible for the Victoria Cross only at the Imperial Durbar held in Delhi in 1911. The First World War saw 11 Indian bravehearts winning the British Empire's highest gallantry award. Sepoy Khudadad Khan, a Punjabi Pathan from the 129th Baluchis (now 11th Baloch in the Pakistan Army), was the first awardee, for his act of gallantry on October 31, 1914, at Hollebeke in Belgium. He belonged to village Dab in Chakwal district of Pakistani Punjab. The other ten are:
*Subedar Mir Dast, a Pathan from 55th Coke's Rifles (now 7th Frontier Force in the Pakistan Army), at the time serving with 57th Wilde's Rifles (now 9th Frontier Force in the Pakistan Army) at Weiltje, near Ypres, Belgium, on April 26, 1915. He was from the Maidan Valley, Tirah, NWFP.
*Naik Durwan Singh Negi, a Garhwali Rajput from 1/39th Garhwal Rifles (now 6th Mechanised Infantry) at Festubert, France, on November 23-24, 1914. He was from Kafarteer, Chamoli, now Uttarakhand.
*Rifleman Gobar Singh Negi, a Garhwali Rajput from 2/39th Garhwal Rifles (now 2nd Garhwal Rifles) at Neuve Chapelle, France, on March 10, 1915. He hailed from Manjood, Tehri Garhwal, Uttarakhand.
*Lance Daffadar Gobind Singh, a Rajput from 28th Light Cavalry (now 7th Cavalry), attached with 2nd Lancers (the regiment retained the name in the 1922 reorganisation) at Peizieres, France, on November 30-December 1, 1917. He was from Damoi in Nagaur, Rajasthan.
*Rifleman Kulbir Thapa, a Magar Gorkha from 2nd/3rd Gorkha Rifles at Fauquissart, France, on September 25, 1915. He was from Palpa in Nepal.
*Sepoy Chatta Singh, a Rajput from 9th Bhopal Infantry (now 17th Punjab in the Pakistan Army) at the Battle of the Wadi on the Tigris Front, Iraq, on January 13, 1916. He was from Tilsara in Kanpur, UP.
*Lance Naik Lala, a Dogra Rajput from 41st Dogras (now 3rd Dogra) at El Orah, Iraq, on January 21, 1916. He belonged to Parol in Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh.
*Naik Shahamad Khan, an Awan from 89th Punjabis (now 1st Baloch in the Pakistan Army) at Beit Ayeesa, Iraq, on April 12-13, 1916. He was from Takhti in Rawalpindi, Pakistani Punjab.
*Rifleman Karan Bahadur Rana, a Gorkha from 2/3 Gorkha Rifles at Al Kefr, Egypt, on April 10, 1918. He was from Bharse Gulni, Lumbini, Nepal.
*Risaldar Badlu Singh, a Jat from 14th Murray's Jat Lancers (now 20th Lancers) attached at the time to 29th Lancers (now the Deccan Horse) at Khes Samariyah, Jordan river, Palestine, on September 23, 1918. He was from Dhakla in Jhajjar, Haryana.
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