For most relatives back home, phone calls from stranded kin are few and far in between, with being absolutely no information from authorities about efforts to bring them back
Four days after Uttarakhand was besieged by flash floods, relatives of the Char Dham pilgrims in the city continue to wait anxiously for the arrival of their dear ones.
Saidabad resident Prateek from said his 52-year-old mother Pratibha Kulkarni was missing. “Along with 20 others, my mother went on the pilgrimage on June 6 through Baba Travels Transport Service. She has not contacted us since June 15, and we are worried,” Prateek said.
For many others, it is sporadic phone calls from stranded relatives, with absolutely no information about efforts to bring them back. With frantic calls to helpline numbers not yielding results, all that the relatives could do is keep their fingers crossed and pray.
“The helpline is nothing but an eyewash. In the first place, it is constantly busy. Even when we could connect, the response was brusque. All that they could tell was that they would send our folks back. They have no clue how,” says P.V. Sharma from Alkapuri Colony.
Sharma’s nephew Purushotham and his wife Jaya Lakshmi, along with their son Haviss and in-laws T.Subba Rao and T.Janaki were on pilgrimage when floods struck. They are now stranded at Badrinath.
“The last we heard from them was on Thursday morning, after which they went out of reach. Officials from A.P. who went there on rescue mission told us that pilgrims at Badrinath were not their priority. It was only thanks to an ITBP commandant that we came to know that the roads were totally damaged, and the pilgrims were being flown out by helicopters,” Mr. Sharma said.
However, only five pilgrims could be carried per trip, and there were only 12 choppers available, which delayed the rescue operations.
For the parents and relatives of M. Rajesh from Malkajgiri, the pilgrimage proved to be even more harrowing. Upon reaching Badrinath, they discovered that their travel agent had disappeared after collecting money. Still, they tried to continue on their own, only to be hit by floods.
“They were returning from Uttarkashi to Rishikesh, when floods struck. After spending three days on the bus, they were shifted to a safer place. They were delayed there for two days due to a bridge collapse,” Mr. Rajesh said. All of them are reported to be safe at Haridwar.
The largest group perhaps was from BHEL Township, from where 15 to16 families comprising 32 members left for the tour, only to be caught between Kedarnath and Haridwar. Thankfully, they could establish contact with people back home through satellite phones.
“They are at Rudraprayag now and fear that their medicines will be exhausted soon if they are not airlifted immediately. I could talk to them last night, but after that they went out of reach,” said K. Srinath, a BHEL employee.
Stranded at Badrinath along with 30 members, M. Raghunandan Reddy from Kollur village near Outer Ring Road said several team members had now started falling sick.
“We are not getting proper food and water, and our members have started consuming water from unsafe sources. Due to this, already several of them have started falling sick. We managed to contact Army officials who said we still have to wait for two more days to reach Delhi.
Altogether, 75 pilgrims from Ranga Reddy district are stranded following floods. They are from Uppal, Rajendranagar, Maheshwaram, Saroornagar, Hayatnagar, Shamirpet, Malkajgiri, Shahbad, Ghatkesar, and Balanagar mandals. Details about missing persons were not available when reports last came in.