In the past week Sonam Sharma has learnt how to fight fires, rescue people during floods and deal with medical emergencies. Quite a feat for an 18-year-old science student.
Sharma was part of the Avhan training camp organised for National Cadet Corps (NCC) from December 25 to 31 at the Mumbai University.
Around 1,200 students from the state participated in the camp on disaster relief.
Avhan has been organised for the first time in Mumbai and for the fourth time in the state with the aim of training NCC youth.
Students were trained in rappelling, flood relief, fire relief and medical contingencies. During any emergency, students can be called on within hours.
“Here we had the chance to compete with boys. We are now not afraid of anything: we can now scale heights, swim through floodwaters and extinguish fires. Earlier, we did not even know basics such as not to use water to extinguish fires caused by oil,” said Sharma.
A team of 43 civil defence experts from the National Civil Defence College in Nagpur was called to train them. Even the fire department gave them a few lessons.
“We are training them to respond to a disaster. They are taught to be alert and know and understand the situation before acting. For example, when there is a flood army forces can rescue victims but then the psychological impact of the disaster also has to taken care of. We are training these cadets in all aspects,” said Ajay Kaul, camp commander, Avhan.
Students, who are used to a more comfortable life, were faced with long hours of strenuous training and strict discipline from 5am to 9pm.
“It was very tiring but we soon got used to it. At the end of every day, we enjoyed walking on the university campus along with friends in the evening chill,” said Divya Shukla, first year science student from Thane.
Students even started enjoying waking up before sunrise. “It would be impossible to wake me up at 4am at home, but here I was always excited to get out of bed and start training,” added Shukla.
Discipline, something the student community is averse to, is now something they appreciate.
“Everything we learnt here is very useful but the discipline of performing every task to our best of our ability is what we will carry with us throughout our lives,” said Krishna Gupta, second year commerce student.
Being part of the NCC has always been prestigious with students going against their parents’ wishes for the cause.
“I chose a college which is 17 kilometers away from my home just because it offered an opportunity to be part of the NCC. My parents were so upset,” said Ashutosh Palkar, Class 12 student from Mhad, Raigad district.
But the camp was not all work.
Students from out of the city were taken for a Mumbai darshan.
“We enjoyed seeing Mumbai. We had always heard of places such as Gateway of India. It was amazing to see those places,” said Sneha Shelke, an arts student from Kolhapur.