Armed forces is a dream for many, for some who make it a reality for themselves, it is a way of life that puts the safety of motherland ahead of their own personal self. They go beyond and above their call of duty to make the bravest of decisions and greatest of sacrifices to safeguard the nation and to save lives of fellow civilians. Hull Artificer Rakesh Kumar of the Indian Navy was one such brave officer.
Rakesh Kumar, Hull Artificer 4 of INS Vikramaditya, was part of the team assigned the task of overseeing fitment of a newly fabricated 1.2 m piece of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) pipe by two civilian contract workers.The sailor was assigned the task of connecting and supervising the operation of a submersible pump and was positioned in the Power Generation Room (PGR), one deck above the compartment containing the Cofferdam, with access to the Cofferdam being only through a long vertical ladder that led down from a narrow hatch.
During the pipe-replacement process, the sailor heard someone shouting from the compartment below and saw a civilian emerging from it in a semi-conscious state. The sailor went down the ladder, picked up the civilian on his shoulder and climbed up the vertical ladder to the PGR, laying him down under an AC vent. He then learned that the other civilian was also unconscious in the Cofferdam. Rakesh, with all his strength, tried to lift the second civilian but was unable to do so as his clothes were slippery and entangled with deck fittings in the narrow space.
In the process the sailor, undeterred and unmindful of his own life, safeguarded the life of men and propulsion machinery of the aircraft carrier, displaying conspicuous gallantry, exemplary leadership and presented an example of ‘Service before Self’. Despite knowing the dangers of the probable presence in the space of toxic gas and its consequences, Rakesh did not relent in his efforts and continued trying to bodily lift the civilian out of the Cofferdam in the hope of saving his life. He, however, lost track of time, and whilst continuing his vain but valiant efforts, also succumbed to the toxic gas inhalation and collapsed inside the Cofferdam. He was extricated from the compartment by a rescue team a few minutes later, but was unfortunately declared dead in the hospital, the Navy said.He has been awarded Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry) posthumously.