Since 1979, they have been a rescue force when disasters strike in Wayanad and neighbouring districts of the State.
So, to the members of the Thurki Bazaar Jeevan Raksha Samithi (Thurki Bazaar emergency rescue organisation), it was a precious moment when Revenue Minister K.P. Rajendran gave them certificates and medals and a cash prize of Rs.25,000 for their free meritorious services at a function at the Collectorate conference hall recently. With the money, the samithi will buy oxygen cylinders to provide emergency assistance to victims of drowning and other accidents, Shal Puthalan, secretary of the organisation, which has 35 members, said.
Mr. Rajendran said the works of the samithi were a model for the State. The government was considering making a documentary film on the rescue operations carried out by these natives of Thurki and Kaithakkolly on the outskirts of Kalpetta. The film would be screened throughout the State to inspire social service workers.
The samithi carries out rescue operations at the time of rain-related calamities, accidents, drowning and fires and organises blood for the victims. “We have rescued the life of more than 45 people this year alone when the monsoon wreaked havoc in the district. Apart from this, more than 50 bodies were recovered in various incidents by the members so far,” Mr. Puthalan said.
The samithi is the first social organisation in the district to publish a blood directory many years ago, he said. The samithi came to be known outside Wayanad after it undertook rescue operations at Kadalundi after a train accident on the railway bridge there on June 23, 2001.
The samithi organises blood donation camps, debates and seminars to spread social awareness among the youth in the district. “Every year, we conduct training for the young members and the interested public on underwater rescue operations in the Thurki river after the monsoon, Mr. Puthalan said.
Accidental drowning has increased after the construction of dams at Karapuzha and Banasura Sagar in the district, he added.
The Revenue and the police departments and the Fire and Rescue Services personnel seek the assistance of the samithi at the time of emergencies. Muhammed Vallyappu and Thurki Kunjahammed are its patrons.