Rajesh Damodar Kachi was all of 19 when he saw a girl accidentally falling into the Mutha river near Dengle Bridge. In the past three decades, this smalltime food vendor from Old Tofkhana, Shivajinagar has saved more than a hundred lives of people who were either drowning, trying to commit suicide or even accident victims. And he hasn’t charged even a penny for this service. He has become so famous as Raju, the saviour, that whenever people see anybody drowning, they immediately call Kachi over. Even the Pune police depend on him to help out in their rescue operations.
Kachi had helped several people in 1997 and 2004, when Pune was plagued by heavy rainfall. He swam across the flooded waters, helping people living near the riverbed remove important belongings from their inundated homes, assisting the disabled, elderly and the children to reach safe, high ground. His own life was in peril several times while trying to save others. Five years ago, Kachi almost drowned trying to rescue an 80-year-old woman. Kachi is a steady helping hand for the Pune police as well. They keep calling him whenever there is a case of drowning. Till now, he has fished out more than 450 dead bodies from the river for the cops. Most of these were decomposed beyond recognition, but he didn’t hesitate to offer help.
His contribution to the police force was so impressive that then sub-inspector of Shivajinagar police station Mahesh Kumar Sartape even made a short film chronicling Kachi’s work, titled Raju: The Life Saviour, which got a lot of festival attention last year. Kachi has often been felicitated by one and all for his relentless good deeds.