On the evening of 14th November, 1986, an unexpected and very high snowfall blocked both ends of the 3,400 meter high Zozila pass. Over one hundred vehicles were trapped in the pass along with their occupants. Numerous landslides and avalanches further added to the disaster. Wing Commander Maheshwar Dutt flying a Mi-17 Helicopter, flew a total of 75 rescue sorties, 56 of them in the first four days. He personally rescued 145 persons saving them from almost certain death in the raging blizzard with wind speeds of 70kmph and temperatures well below zero. On no occasion was a prepared helipad provided and Wg Cdr Dutt often landed on compact snow by the roadside. These operations, from makeshift helipads scarcely larger than his helicopter wheel base were carried until all the trapped persons were evacuated.
Wing Commander Maheshwar Dutt thus displayed conspicuous courage and sustained endurance in the face of hazardous natural conditions.