Wednesday, 28 August 2019


I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men; they are far superior and always have been.

William Golding

As women, we have superpowers. We are sisters. We are healers. We are mothers. We are goddess warriors.
Merle Dandridge


         LtCdr Rajeshwari who epitomises both the above quotes started her career in the Indian Navy in the logistics branch in 1995 (4th batch of Lady Offrs). She figures in the Limca Book of Records as the first Lady Officer to be posted to a Front Line Indian Naval Warship, INS Jyoti. The Ship's former Commanding Officer, Cmde Ajay H Chitnis says, "When the Navy conducted this experiment of sending women officers onboard, it was the commendable spirit of the Ship's company of INS Jyoti that ensured that they spent their time onboard without any untoward incident. As their CO I knew what an achievement it was."   

      Rajeshwari was born on 16 Sep 1973 at Bagalkot Karnataka. During her childhood, her Dad, Late LtCdr Gangadhar Sangappa Kori (Regulating Branch) had proudly named her ‘Raju’ and ever since she has been at the forefront of all activities that she undertook. Her mother Kashibai Kori had been the Principal of a Junior college, later a teacher in KVs. Raju studied in convent schools in Vizag / Port Blair and KV Colaba before graduating with Distinction in Commerce from Bhosle Military College Nasik in 1994. 30 Nov 1995 was a momentous occasion for her Mother when she pipped stripes on her daughter’s slender shoulders at INS Mandovi. During her Naval career, she tied the knot with a Naval Constructor Cdr Sandeep Kumar (a surveyor in IRS post-retirement) and is blessed with two beautiful Daughters Aditi & Divya. Both her kids are as brilliant and bubbly as their mother. She retired in Dec 2008 and has settled in Powai. Her passions in life include long-distance cycling and trekking. Post-retirement she joined Home Dept Special 8 of Maharashtra as DC Civil Defence Coordination and Planning and has Commanded Central Institute of Trg - Home Guards, Civil Defence Staff College, has been SSO Industries, Operations and Stores, Mumbai and is at present serving as Commandant Civil Defence as a Senior staff & Training posted to Raigarh–Maharashtra. She has been rendering yeoman’s service to marooned people in remote areas during disasters. During the recent floods in coastal Maharashtra, she with her team worked in conjunction with the  Naval Divers for the rescue of marooned villagers.

        Here’s a Report on Kolhapur floods 2019 narrated by her on Civil Defence relief operations 9-14 August.  

    We were ordered on 8 August to go to Kolhapur by 9 August by the Director.  By 2130 hours from Mumbai we Somehow managed to mobilise 5 officers (Self-included) and 56 personnel (firemen basically) with 2 ambulances, 1 truck, 1 bus, and 2 Bolero jeeps. By then I had contacted the Additional SP and Commandant of Homeguards of Kolhapur informing him of our arrival. He was a bit apprehensive as the NH4 was blocked. Water wasn’t receding. I told him, sir (out of professional respect), not to worry we will come to the nearest point and set up our base camp.  We reached Karad on 10 August 0630 hours. Water had receded a bit. We were told to reach Vadgaon and from there go to Shirol tehsil. By 1020 hours we were at Shirol. Went to meet a Police Inspector Katakdhond. Very helpful officer. Seeing a lady he offered us 61 packets of hot Upma and tea. Annapurna should always be with the menfolk. Nobody refuses a lady. Later we were told to go to meet the Additional SP camping at Tehsil office along with the Prant Adhikari or the sub-divisional officer. 

          Self and another deputy Controller offered our services. To our surprise, they actually didn’t know what to do. Total chaos and confusion. The army was rescuing the villagers and bringing or rather dumping them to Shirol. Entire Shirol was full of villagers. Relief camps were set up. Cattle were tied up. Cow dung lying all over. Even Hospitals, clinics were taken by the evacuated villagers. NDRF was, as usual, filming themselves to leak to the media of their rescue efforts later in the day. That is their modus operandi. The less said the better. I took a call of not working with the NDRF. I knew the clearance divers of the navy were requisitioned and would arrive from Vishakhapatnam late at night. I told the Tehsildar to give us relief materials. We will try to go to our allotted village and set up a base camp to enable us to distribute relief materials to actual people. 

          We stored in our truck. We went to the site of the river in spate the Triveni Sangam. The army came back from Shitke village and advised not to venture out today. NDRF tried for the sake of some pics and came back after some photoshoot. There were NGOs with banners and private doctors. All for photoshoots. Was surprised that there was no police bandobast. Anybody and everybody was coming to the water point for flood tourism. We were told to camp in a sugar factory nearby. Seeing a lady, they accommodated me at arogya kendra ‘s Special room with attached bathroom. Small mercies, though I had phsyched my mind for some roughening. It was 2300 hours when I went to bed after fall in, instructions, dinner etc.

11 August 2019
At 0630 hours We reached Janta Vidya mandir where we were to proceed to Kurundwadi village. I took along another deputy Controller Vijay Jadhav. By then we had tuned with each other to work. He became my sarthi. He understood my vision without my blurting. We both went and waited in the tehsil office for the navy to report. 

        Master Chief Ashok Kumar class 1 seemed very familiar. On 31 October 1998, when INS Jyoti has a mid-sea collision near malacca strait, he had come to inspect the extent of damage our ship had in Port Blair after being towed. We stuck a rapport immediately. I requested him to ferry Civil Defence personnel to Kurundwadi village with relief materials. Fortunately, the navy was also allotted the same area for Rescue operations. Ma saab said he had brought 4 Gemini's with a seating capacity of 8 only. Another 11 will arrive later. Therefore we will first recce the village. I agreed. We also got the best local guide Aruf  Patel to take us through the waters. Actually, I struck a conversation with him and maybe he liked my way of talking to him as he readily agreed instead of going with NDRF. On the sly, I put some relief materials in one of the Gemini just in case.

          At 1130 hours we set sail Ma Saab’s team of 6 and my team of self+2. The Civil Defence personnel are not trained, hence I took 2 men. We saw utter devastation. Dogs barking on small rooftops.

            We reached Kurundwadi village. Spoke to the villagers. Had the first contact on mobile with the Additional SP Sreeniwas Gadge who guided us to speak to police inspector Nivte. We searched for the police station. Found PSI Shinde. The police station was underwater. Made Shinde speak to the SP after that there was no communication. Then we sailed to Nagar Parishad office. The Chief Officer was a young newly appointed rookie,  Nikhil Jadhav and was huddled in his office. 2 CD divers went and retrieved him and his team. We sailed to SP college. 

         An airforce helicopter dropped supplies in the premises of SP college. We took stock of the supplies and informed the chief officer that we will go to Shirol and get more supplies. He was scared to face the crowd. We assured him. Calmed him. The relief materials which I had put on the boats were missing. As envisaged, the villagers had grabbed and the poor young clearance divers of the navy did not protest. They were guarding their boats. We returned after assuring the chief officer of Additional help.

           While returning, we saw one naval Gemini coming along with zee tv crew. I asked ma saab, since when did we start coming individually. 2 boats at a time was what I was taught. Ma saab took charge. Shouted at the poor CD sailors in chaste Haryanavi. After a long time, I heard the language live. Post some calming down the zee tv crew were shifted on our boat as we had the best local guide Aruf. He was very experienced. We sent back the boat along with our second boat including the 2 Civil Defence personnel as both Ma Saab Ashok Kumar were confident of coming back safely. Unfortunately, this was a bad decision on our side to allow the zee tv crew to come on-board. We were asked by zee tv to give some bytes. Both self and ma saab refused to be baited for the bytes. Cardinal rule- not to speak to the press. But somehow, in the end, they got us and we were crisp in talking, not divulging anything which might go against the government policy.

At KJurundwadi village the villagers didn’t like to be filmed. The crew asked how they felt and whether the government has aided them. Bas kya tha, the crowd hurled some choicest abuses. The navy team and self were wondering how the government hasn’t done anything. The airforce dropped supplies and the army evacuated so many to safety. Have they fallen from the sky? But we kept our counsel to ourselves and let it tide over. We didn’t want to be embroiled in any kind of unnecessary controversy.

         We prepared to return back,  and the Gemini touched a sharp edge and punctured the rubber boat. Again the divers got down in the water pushed the boat to safety. Removed all the water. Repaired the boat, when a request for transferring a pregnant woman came. I asked her due date. I was told it was 15 days later. I said she is not a casualty. She is safe here. The water will recede by then. The doctors will soon arrive. They didn’t listen and hurled abuses. Police sub-inspector Shinde diffused the situation and I made a mental note to tell the SP to send for police/ Homeguards to maintain law and order else we cannot work for fear of being beaten up. Can’t blame them too as actual help reached only in the 4 days that too from the sky. We were the first to set foot ( navy and Civil Defence).

         I briefed the SP and got a wireless message sent to the headquarters of our activities. I didn’t know I was in the news by then. The CM of Maharashtra was stunned to see a dead organisation active on prime time. The navy took 14 Civil Defence personnel across the river to set up base camp in Kurundwadi. Unfortunately, the Civil Defence Officers and staff could not handle the circumstances and requested to be brought back. Ma saab set out again the next day and brought all the 14 people back on 12 August 2019. I too was scared for their safety as they have not been in action for almost 25 years. Rumours were going around that, I am trained by the navy, hence have the guts. But it is all in the mind. If you wish to work you will find a way. 

       I summoned the morning fall in. Spoke about my vulnerability. It hit the right chords and I got back the confidence of all 56 - 14 = 42 men. Then self along with Jadhav set forth for the tehsildar ‘s office and told them that we will bag the relief materials and ensure it reaches the right people. He agreed. And we bagged 150 relief packets in just 5 hours. Their 2 days work completed in 5 hours. Now, what next? Nothing. The Civil administration didn’t know how to utilise this manpower. There were no empty plastic bags left. They were supposed to come on Thursday morning but didn’t. Our Civil Defence guys were left idling. Extra people mean extra mouths to feed. Extra space is taken. Self and Jadhav decided to tell the Additional SP to relieve us. He understood our plight. He relieved us by midnight. 

      In Mumbai, the Mantralaya was abuzz with our activities. I was Congratulated, but I refused to take congratulatory messages saying it was my duty.  In handling the disaster relief measures, I have ended up with flying colours, thanks to the Naval training ingrained into me from the Naval Academy days and consolidated later in my Naval career onboard ships and establishments. As of now, it seems I am the rising sun in my second innings.

          Very true LtCdr Rajeshwari Kori, the Sun can never set in an empire that has dedicated women like You. The Navy is indeed proud of You. Your  Dad must be smiling in the Heavens and showering you with blessings.

Shano Varuna ....Jai Hind  !!!

LtCdr Rajeshwari Kori Email:


  1. Though I had read about her superb management of floods.. but didn't know much about her background.. thanks for sharing in a well articulated Blog..

  2. Thanks for an encouraging remark Sir.👏🙏

  3. A brave-heart indeed! My hearty commendation for the valour displayed, congratulations for the coveted praise earned & best wishes for her & all her family members in all walks of life!!

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  5. Nandita Banerjee writes...Thanks, Privilege to know about such a Valiant Officer.

  6. Cdr Teck Sharma writes... Thanks for sharing. Definitely women are capable of doing given task sincerely.

  7. Cdr Harinder Sikka writes.....Good stuff Raj. Pretty simple ,yet deep.

  8. Thanks Harry....Coming from a renowned Author himself, feel honoured.

  9. Cmde Abhyankar writes....Great piece Raj !

  10. Cmde Aspi Cawasji writes... Good write up Raj, These ladies are worthy of the salt of the Indian Ocean.

  11. RAdm SVS Chary writes... Thank you very much for the very interesting untold story...Regards. Chary.

  12. Veer Nari Janaki Bhandoola writes....Never realised Rajeshwari had retired. She looks so young and fresh. I have known her since a year and grateful to meet one more good person in my advanced age...Thanks.

  13. Veer Nari Kanta Mukherjee writes.... Good depiction, Well done Raju.

  14. Cdr Vijay Vadhera writes....Excellent write up Raj, as always.