It has been nearly a week now since they landed in the midst of an unprecedented disaster. In fact, as they flew from Dehradun to Badrinath in inclement weather, it was a risky and trying time for them as a helicopter had crashed at the same time.
Karnataka Information and Infrastructure Development Minister Santosh Lad, with a team of eight senior officials and a group of four doctors and four male nurses, are doing their bit and lending a helping hand to provide relief to the affected people not only from Karnataka but also from other states. With pilgrims stranded in Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri, this team has managed to send back more than 1000 pilgrims from the state, as per latest reports. Santosh Lad who has been overseeing the effort from Badrinath told City Express that the last five days, he and his team had spent all their waking hours transporting people from the disaster zones to helipads, providing medicine, distributing water, rations and coordinating other emergency relief measures.
In the midst of a harried lady requesting for transportation, Lad informed over phone from his camp at Badrinath, “I don’t want to say much especially after the Congress-TDP fracas at Dehradun airport. But my heart goes out to the affected locals and pilgrims who have lost their near and dear ones. The situation in the affected zones is so horrendous with dead and decomposed bodies floating everywhere that I feel completely down. Most of the bodies are so decomposed that they are beyond recognition.”
According to him, the disaster has taken over the hearth and homes of most Uttarakhandis while pilgrims from other states too have been coming to their camp for help. “Although we came here to rescue people from our state but how can we ignore people from other states who are in such distress. In fact, we have rescued people from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat,” Lad stated.
Recalling an unforgettable incident, Lad said, “ I can’t forget this little boy from Rajasthan whom I literally pulled out and put him on the chopper to be united with his family. The last four days, we have neither slept nor relaxed a bit as the rush for evacuation has been increasing manifold. We have been unable to keep a track of the overall number of rescued people but nearly 800-1000 from our state were evacuated and airlifted to Dehradun and sent back by trains to Bangalore. As it is, from four different locations, people are being airlifted to Dehradun and from there, they are provided free railway tickets to go back home.”
Lad’s team comprising three IAS officers, one IPS officer, three KAS officers and 8 medical personnel are based at different locations like Badrinath, Kedarnath and Joshimath so as to help stranded people across the char dhams. “We have a place to stay at Badrinath and are subsisting on whatever is available under these trying conditions and further managing to carry out our task from this shelter every day. Another heartening news is that we have managed to trace and contact another 100 people from Karnataka who will be sent back soon. But about 100-150 people who are in transit may have gone back on their own. No person in distress has been refused help whenever they have contacted us and we are doing our best to provide medical care too as four medical camps have been set up in the most affected areas.”
Fortunately, not many people are missing from Karnataka state, however, a government source informed that 14 are on the missing list. Lad and his team who will be in Uttarakhand for a few more days say that they are grateful that they have been a little part of this massive rescue effort and have contributed their bit towards this Herculean task of rescuing people from the jaws of death.
It may be recalled that Karnataka government provided a financial assistance of Rs 5 crore for Uttarkhand relief and rescue works and an additional amount of Rs 50 lakhs for transporting affected people from the state back home.