At times we were left with no option but to eat the grain given to horses

Ram Charan Natani of Jaipur, who was stranded in the flood-hit Uttarakhand for more than 12 days without food and water, described his experience as “hellish” and recalled how he and his family had a close brush with death. Mr. Natani was among the group of 23 people who interacted with media persons here on Saturday on their way back to Rajasthan after being rescued. Some of them narrated their ordeal with their hands shivering and voices wavering.

Mr. Natani said that with nothing to eat and drink for days, they spent the time consoling each other and fighting inclement weather. He alleged that the Uttarakhand Government did not provide any relief to them and no one came to their rescue. Another pilgrim, Govind Sharan, termed the experience a “black chapter” in his life and said that even though he had all worldly comforts at his home, his condition was no better than that of a beggar stranded without food and water. “At times we were left with no option but to eat the grain given to the horses,” said Mr. Sharan.

These people were rescued by the Army on Thursday from Badrinath and air-lifted to Joshimath from where they were sent to Rishikesh through a Punjab Police bus. The volunteers of Confederation of All-India Traders (CAIT) and All-India Marwadi Yuva Morcha (AIMYM) later hired a private bus for them from Rishikesh to Jaipur.

Vimla Goliya, one of the rescued pilgrims, accused the Uttarakhand Government of not taking any serious note of the stranded people and credited the Army for their safe return. Each day passed like a year, said Ms. Goliya, adding that she still could not believe that she was alive. AIMYM national president Lalit Gandhi, who along with other office-bearers of the morcha and the CAIT was part of the rescue operation, said that it was one of the biggest tragedies to have hit the country and it was difficult to precisely count the number of people missing or dead. CAIT secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal said that the two organisations had offered to adopt two villages and reconstruct them.

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