Commandant Nitya Nand Gupta was a happy and a proud man — proud that his team had saved numerous lives working-round-the-clock in a hostile terrain and tough weather conditions for nine non-stop days. Gupta and some of his men were to head home later this week after a job well done but that was not to be.
Gupta, heading the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) unit in the flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, and his eight colleagues were among the 20 rescuers who died in the Tuesday’s Mi-17 helicopter crash on way back from Kedarnath, which saw widespread devastation in the June 15-16 flashfloods.
An ITBP man on deputation to NDRF and heading a unit at its Ghaziabad base, Gupta was to call off the operation on Tuesday as all pilgrims had been air-lifted from Kedarnath.
The ITBP and NDRF personnel were the first to reach the temple site and were also instrumental in evacuating thousands of pilgrims through alternative routes through the slippery slopes of the Kedar valley. More than 20,000 people were evacuated from Kedarnath and surrounding areas.
Gupta’s team also rescued about 300 persons stranded in Jungle Chetti after building a make-shift helipad and were the first to provide medical aid to those stranded in Kedarnath.
His 49-year-old colleague, inspector Bhim Singh, who was from Jammu and died in the crash, spent many sleepless nights comforting those who lost their family members, an official said.
“They have done a great job with limited resources and in difficult situation,” NDRF’s IG (Operations) Sandeep Rathore said about Gupta’s team. Though shocked and grieving, the NDRF personnel on Wednesday continued to do what they do the best – saving precious lives.