Although health experts have written volumes on the dangers of the cellphone suggesting it is a serious public health hazard, the modern invention literally saved 2,000 lives in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand. A traveller from Maharashtra, stranded in no man’s land along with thousands of ill-fated pilgrims at Junglechatti, is now being credited with helping rescuers locate the group after using a cellphone to transmit to them a self-drawn map (see pic on left) of the inaccessible terrain.
Jayesh Bhangdiya and a group of 2,000 pilgrims waited for rescuers at Junglechatti but since the area was completely cut off from the mainland, agencies in the rescue mission had no idea of the whereabouts of the stranded pilgrims, who were mostly from Maharashtra.
Bhangdiya realised the small area where they were huddled was not visible to choppers and drew a map of the area on a sheet of paper, providing the exact location of stranded tourists and short notes in Hindi.
Armed with a camera phone, he clicked a photograph of the map he had drawn and forwarded it to his friend in Dehradun, who in turn informed the Inspector General of Police (Law & Order) Ram Singh Meena. The map was immediately forwarded to Army and State police officers involved in the rescue operation to evacuate stranded pilgrims.
Meena confirmed that Bhangdiya’s friend Sunil Baheti had come to see him with the map and he later alerted Army personnel to evacuate the stranded pilgrims. “A search and rescue team was dispatched with the map and was able to airdrop food items and later evacuate all pilgrims to safety. His (Bhangdiya’s) presence of mind saved many lives,” Meena said.