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– Wanted to develop his village, motivate more youths to join Army

Punekar News's photo.Satara, Maharashtra, November 18 : Colonel Santosh Mahadik (38), Commanding Officer, 41 Rashtriya Rifles (Maratha Light Infantry), gave the supreme sacrifice in the true traditions of the Indian Army while conducting counter infiltration operation in Manigah Forest of Kupwara District of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday. He was to visit his native next month.

Forever leading by example, Colonel Mahadik was in the fore front of a search party pursuing terrorists in the inhospitable terrain when heavy accurate fire was brought down by the terrorists. Without caring for his personal safety, Col Santosh retaliated and rallied on. Despite being critically wounded, the Commanding Officer led his troops till he was evacuated. He, however succumbed to his grave injuries while being resuscitated.

This was not the first time the brave soldier had displayed his dare-devilry. He was awarded Sena Medal (Gallantry) for his exceptional gallantry and leadership as a young officer while fighting the terrorists in Lolab Valley of this very district in 2003. He had also taken part in Operation Rhino in Assam to flushout ULFA militants.

 Punekar News's photo.Punekar News's photo.Coming from a humble family, Col Santosh’s orientation towards army emanated from his early days at Sainik School, Satara. His friends remember him as “Calm in composure, gentle in demeanor who carried a storm in his heart”. During a School Boxing Championship, one of his friends congratulated him for his victory to which his father late Madhukar Ghorpade responded “This is not the great fight of my son, his real fight will be on the borders protecting his nation and my son will always be victorious”. Colonel Santosh Mahadik, the brave son of the soil has stood true to his father’s words. The surname of Santosh changed after he was adopted by a close relative few years back.

A multifaceted personality, Colonel Santosh Mahadik has done immense work for bringing a positive change in the lives of the local populace. He organised guidance for competitive exams, recruitment training for joining defence forces and conducted various sports and academic oriented competitions for constructive engagement of youth. His passion for bringing about a positive change in the youth of the remote border district of Kupwara led him to explore multiple ways of engaging them in constructive activities which could also lead to self-sustenance. He regularly conducted guidance workshops for college students to bring about awareness in them about their employment potential. His ‘never say die’ attitude and gregarious smile were ever so infectious, always giving hope for better times to come. While conveying his condolence to General Officer Commanding, Vajr Division, DC Kupwara expressed “For the last 10 days he (Colonel Santosh Mahadik) was constantly in touch with me to conduct a motivational course for my District Officers, and today was to be the first day of the course”.

Sports had a special place in Santosh’s heart being an outstanding sportsman himself. Appreciating the potential of sports in gainfully diverting the energy of youth, he organised a large number of sports tournaments ranging from cricket, football, volleyball to carom. He even distributed sports kit and kept lavish prizes for tournaments to motivate and promote sports.

Colonel Santosh was a soldier with a heart of gold. Helping the needy, organizing medical camps in the remote corners of his battalion area of responsibility, ensuring regular interaction with villager elders, giving them a patient empathetic ear and finding solutions to their problems, providing help to villagers in distress; all came naturally to him, so much so that he continued to generate goodwill amongst the local populace with his dogged selfless acts. He was a familiar face in Kupwara town who was acknowledged by the locals with a smile.

His soldierly duties did not prevent him from dreaming big about the upliftment and development of the district with varied ideas ranging from realistically implementing the Swach Bharat Abhiyan to finding ways to develop nature parks and an international cricket stadium. He dreamt big and worked even bigger.

The brave officer is survived by his wife, Swati, an 11 year old daughter and five year old son. Col Santosh Mahadik’s martyrdom is the epitome of exceptional selfless service to the Nation. Though he is no more with us, he continues to live on as an example of true professionalism and humanitarian excellence.

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