‘If left in present conditions, we may not live much longer’
Pilgrims from Karnataka who were stranded in flood-hit Badrinath, Uttarakhand, continue to tell stories of despair. Two aged couples — Shashikant Rao Akshanti and his wife, Shantabai, and D.S. Kulkarni and his wife, Geeta, — were part of an 80-member group of pilgrims touring north India. The entire group is now stranded in Badrinath, which has been hit by a shortage of food and drinking water.
“The pilgrims are safe, but their health is deteriorating every day,” said Rajendra, Mr. Rao’s son-in-law.
Mr. Rajendra said that Mr. Rao contacted him regularly. He said one of the major problems being faced by the pilgrims in Badrinath was the shortage of medicines.
“Most of the pilgrims are elderly and suffer from hypertension and diabetes. They have exhausted their supply of medicines, and medicines are either unavailable or being sold at exorbitant rates in Badrinath,” Mr. Rajendra said.
According to Mr. Rao, who is a retired Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation official, there are around 800 pilgrims from Karnataka residing at the dharamshala there.
They get one meal a day, and must bathe with cold water to ensure that the LPG cylinders lasted as long as possible.
It is impossible to use firewood for cooking or other purposes because of the rain.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, the local traders have hiked the prices of food in hotels and eateries enormously; even a cup of tea now costs Rs. 50. There is no electricity either; mobiles need to be charged through inverters, a service which costs Rs. 20 each time.
The pilgrims are waiting for the government to airlift them. “We do not have much hope. If we are left to live in present conditions we may not live much longer,” Mr. Rao told Mr. Rajendra. “Although the pilgrims have money in bank accounts, none of the ATMs in Badrinath have any left,” Mr. Rao had said.
Mr. Rajendra said that the 80-member group had miraculously escaped the flash floods and landslides in Kedarnath, as they had returned to Badrinath on June 15.