Staring death in the face and losing relations right before their eyes, pilgrims from the devastating Char Dham yatra returned by a flight from New Delhi here on Tuesday evening.
A total of 16 pilgrims boarded the flight, courtesy the TDP with its president and former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu deciding to help them reach home at the earliest.
The pilgrims are from Palakonda, Palasa, Gajuwaka, and Sriramnagar.
Lakshmi of Sriramnagar still seemed to be dazed from the tragic death of her husband’s sister Hemalatha, 3 km away from Gaurikund. While walking in the dangerous terrain, another man who was slipping caught her by the hair pulling her to death.
On Monday, Lakshmi got separated from her husband and father-in-law while returning from Rishikesh. The two were among the 30 who had returned by flight arranged by the TDP late on Monday night.
“It was like rebirth for us. Having got stuck, we walked about 16 km before reaching Dehradun,” recalls Tirumalamba of Palakonda, who returned with her husband Vaikuntha Rao and four others.
“We went up to Srinagar and dropped our journey to Haridwar because of the cloudburst. We got stuck for two days, and while walking back saw a number of corpses. To survive, we had to drink water in the flooded rivers even as corpses were flowing by,” Umamaheswara Rao of Gajuwaka said.
He said the Telugu-speaking people were given a raw deal and thanked the TDP president for his intervention that improved matters.
Most of them reached Delhi by private buses or buses provided by the government.
G. Kalimaheswari and her friend also arrived by the same flight, but the tickets were arranged by Civil Supplies Minister Sridhar Babu.
Former Minister Bandaru Satyanaryana Murthy, TDP (Urban) president Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar, and party leader Anita Sakuru received the batch of pilgrims.
NTR Memorial Trust arranged a first-aid camp at the airport and kept an ambulance ready.
Mr. Satyanaryana Murthy attacked the Chief Minister, stating he had failed to arrange a flight to provide quick relief to the stranded pilgrims and even the arrangements at Andhra Bhavan were pathetic. After Mr. Naidu swung into action, within an hour of returning from the U.S., a flight was now being arranged from Dehradun, he said.