Yogendra Rana showed his heroic efforts by evacuating hundreds of pilgrims at the time of 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand, which engulfed more than 5,000 people and left thousands of Char Dham pilgrims stranded across the hill state.
Yogendra Rana, risked his life for saving the lives of hundreds of stranded pilgrims at Kedarnath, is a name that is synonymous for bravery. His story of valour and pride has touched the depths of the soul of the people of Uttarakhand. This brave son of Uttarakhand has contributed his efforts in carrying out the rescue operations held at Kedarnath in June 2013. It has been two years since the havoc occurred but the efforts of a great soul has not been recognized yet.
Yogendra Rana’s act of valor reminds, there is no such thing as bravery only degrees of fear. Rana used to work as an operation manager at the base of Giridev Aviation. In the evening of June 17, 2013, Yogendra Rana along with the captain of Giridev Aviation saw the havoc caused by the floods which was a dreadful sight indeed. On June 18 they conducted a rescue mission to evacuate pilgrims from Jungle Chatti, Rambada and Garud Chatti. Yogendra Rana used to risk his life by jumping from the chopper flying at a height of 5 to 7 feet, in order to help the stranded pilgrims. He carried this rescue operation at least 20 times a day. About 200 people were rescued from Jungle Chatti and on June 21 Indian army also came for help. After the catastrophe, Rana faced distress when he lost his source of livelihood as aviation companies were shut down. A man who saved hundreds of lives was deprived of help in the hour of need and was leading a solemn life. It was a moment of shame for the state and the people.
Yogendra Rana played a pivot role in ‘Operation Rahat’ which was carried at the time of the catastrophe. He constructed five helipads at different places in the valley and left everybody stunned by building the first helipad on Kedar Valley in extreme conditions. Rana also built a helipad for army helicopters which was used as launching pad for carrying out the rescue operations. He used to jump off with the parachute to construct this helipad. Rana used to set up makeshift helipads in the precarious valley to evacuate thousands of wretched pilgrims. It was only after the completion of the helipad that people could be rescued from the flood struck areas. Rana used to winch down from the IAF choppers to offer a helping hand to the devastated victims. He evacuated hundreds of survivors of the wreck into the helicopter.
To recognize the efforts of Rana, Shaurya Chakra awardee Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu pleaded the government to felicitate the brave man for his virtuous act. By looking at the ignorant behavior of the government, Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu took the responsibility of getting his efforts recognized. He wrote a letter to the district administration stating while IAF recognized his gallantry and President awarded him with Shauraya Chakra, it is a matter of disgust that the government of Uttarakhand has blind folded his eyes in this matter.
In the letter dated September 12, 2014 Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu wrote “I was instrumental in carrying out a number of rescue operations and that would not have been possible without Rana’s assistance. He volunteered on his own without thinking about his life. He not only helped in making the arduous Jungle Chatti helipad but also rescued a stranded couple from 10,500 feet.”
On June 21, when the sortie flew over Junglechatti, Rana along with a pilot saw hundreds of stranded pilgrims and corpses which were scattered all around. He says, “I had never done the drill (winching) but I volunteered because I wanted to save the lives of the stranded pilgrims. The district authority refused any insurance cover to me but I still went ahead for the sake of people’s lives”. Being an acquisitive mountaineer, he was well acquainted with the drill. He recalls the nerve-raking incidence and tells, “The chopper hovered over Garurchatti and then started flying towards the ground. I could see people waving their hands at me. Bodies were hanging on the trees and on rocks; there was death and destruction everywhere.”
Rana says, “I did my job without thinking of any award or recognition. I am continuing normal work of organizing treks in the mountains. For me, the letter by Wing Commander Nikhil Naidu is the biggest award.”