After a close shave with death in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, survivors have returned with an unsavoury image of residents and police of the hill state.
Scores of people from various districts of Haryana had gone to pilgrimages in Uttarakhand a few days before the cloud burst followed by heavy rainfall that flooded tributaries of the Ganga river in the upper Himalayan reaches.
While several of them are still untraced, a few lucky ones have returned home. Bal Kishan Jain and his wife Pinky of Khatri Mohalla here battled death for four days in inhospitable conditions near Gaurikund area en route Kedarnath shrine. The couple that returned on Friday evening had all words of praise for the army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) jawans.
"More than nature's fury, insensitive attitude of Uttarakhand people hurt us more. We were at Rambara on June 15 evening when suddenly the area experienced heavy rainfall. We witnessed a group of more than 40 pilgrims being washed away, following which we started climbing the mountain in the dark," Jain said.
When the couple reached a village near Gaurikund in the morning asked people for help, locals turned backs on them. "We were hungry and even offered Rs. 100 for a chapatti but villagers were not ready to listen to us. All they offered us was shelter in the verandahs. but no one offered any woolens or even a tumbler of warm water," Jain said. The couple said they saw several healthy people die due to shock and trauma.
"We had lost hope seeing people collapsing in front of us. The bodies were scattered on roads and floating in the water," said the couple who was airlifted by the army on Thursday.
An all-male group of relatives that reached their house in Sector 7 here from Badrinath has a similar tale to tell. "We were stuck at Pandukehwar, about 1km ahead of Gobind Dham, the base camp of Hemkunt Sahib, on June 16. Police and people of Uttarakhand did not help," Shiv Kumar said. The group had travelled in their new car and had to leave it behind.
They said sewadars and pilgrims at Gobind Dham prepared 'langar' and offered help to those stranded in the rough conditions. "It was disheartening to see that a well-connected person (identity not confirmed to survivors) was airlifted while other stranded pilgrims were ignored. "The authorities provided jeeps to drive down survivors to Chamoli but only those who paid money to the driver were given preference. Locals were busy minting money in the time of distress," said other survivor Sandeep Goyal.
The tale of Resham Singh, 23, of Pipli in Kurukshetra is equally moving. He had to pay Rs. 25,000 to transport his relative's body from Joshimath to Rishikesh via Pauri.
Resham had gone to Hemkunt Sahib with his friends and cousin and relatives on motorcycle. Two of them died due to landslide.
"As police and locals were not to ready help us, my cousin breathed his last in my arms. He was critically injured and died at a police post on June 17 near Joshimath. My friend was buried under the debris, about 1 km from the police post," he said.