NEW DELHI: CRPF ASI Padmeswar Das is on leave at his home in Assam but not off-duty as he prepares ration packets, using his savings, for the poor in his village who are worst hit by the coronavirus lockdown.
The 48-year-old trooper, whose unit is deployed in south Kashmir's terrorist violence-hit Shopian district, is helping those affected by the lockdown in his tiny village of Chatanguri, about 76 kms from the headquarters of Morigaon district.
Moved by the plight of the distressed, Das discussed with his mother and wife about the possible help they could extend and they enthusiastically joined him in the endeavour.
"I came home for my scheduled leave on March 3 and by the time I was supposed to return, the lockdown was declared.
My unit based in the Kashmir valley also sent a message, asking me to stay put and not return.
"Had I been with my force, I would have had an army of my colleagues and officers to help the needy.
Then I thought I can be a one-man army," Das told PTI over phone from his village.
"My force stands for the motto 'service and loyalty' whether a jawan is alone or in a group," he said.
The assistant sub-inspector (ASI), who joined the CRPF as a constable in 1991, said he took his scooty and went to the nearest market to fetch about 80 kg of rice and other dry ration.
The next day, he and his family prepared over 50 packets, each containing two kgs of rice, one kg potato, a small bottle of mustard oil, a packet of salt, onions and half-a-kg of pulses.
"I spent about Rs 8,000-10,000 for purchasing and packing these items," Das said hesitatingly, as he did not seem keen to share the cost of his noble deed.
He said he used his uniform for the service of people.
"I donned my uniform as the movement of civilians was barred due to the lockdown, used my 'gamocha' (a traditional Assamese scarf) as a mask and got a handcart to distribute the packets among the needy," Das said.
When reminded that he acted like a good samaritan, he said he only knows that "efforts of any kind always count".
"My colleagues in my delta company unit in Shopian and in the entire force are spread out to help in the fight against coronavirus and the lockdown-affected people in whatever way they can.
I am just one among them," Das, who has a young son and a daughter, said.
His boss and Commandant of the 76th battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (based in Jammu) Neeraj Pandey is all praise for his "tough and dedicated" colleague.
"I am proud of what Das did to help people, despite being on official leave.
He has gone beyond his call of duty, but that is what our ethos and regimentation are all about," he said.
Unfazed by the continuing lockdown, Das plans to replenish the stocks for those who need his help.