Eight accomplished mountaineers led by India’s first woman on Mount Everest, Bachendri Pal, are using their climbing skills to provide succour to the residents of villages that are yet to receive any assistance from the government in flood ravaged Uttarakhand.
Pal, who hails from Uttarakhand and heads Tata Adventure Foundation, is overseeing relief operations undertaken by Tata Relief Trust from Uttarkashi.
The trust has tied up with a local charity to provide food and other items to about 400 families in six villages – New Didsari, Didsari, Pilang, Jadaou, Bayana and Shyaba.
Premlata Agarwal, the first Indian woman to conquer the highest peaks of all seven continents and member of the mountaineers' team, said accessing the villages was the most difficult part of the relief operations.
"The roads have caved in. We go in vehicles till roads allow and trek the rest of the way. It is a tough task, but today my climbing skills seem to have found a real meaning," she said.
Besides Agarwal, the team comprises former HT staffer Anusha Subramanian, Yashwant Panwar, Guneet Puri, Jay Panwar, Mamtha, Poonam and Hemant. Each morning they pack 20-25 kg of relief items in their backpacks and then trek to these remote villages.
On Tuesday, the team found most of the homes and potato fields had been washed away in New Didsari, a village 10km away from Uttarkashi.
"They have managed to get a few packets of biscuits in the name of food. The children here are not used to eating biscuits and almost all of them have fallen ill. No medical aid is anywhere in sight. We are doing our bit but I wonder how many days the supplies would last," said Agarwal.
Pal said even before the tragedy struck, she had been noticing the telltale sings of degradation such as wanton constructions and falling water levels in water bodies.
"There were enough signs but that it would take the shape of this huge calamity was beyond me. Nature has given us a warning and it’s up to all of us to hear the warning bells," she said.