When Dilip Thapa received a call from his father in Nepal last Sunday, he was prepared for the worst. Thankfully, Thapa’s family back home escaped unscathed when the killer quake devastated large parts of the country.
But Thapa’s home was flattened by the 7.9-magnitude quake and his elderly parents were living in the open, among the injured, with hardly any food left in Gorkha district, an area located close to the epicentre of Saturday’s temblor.
A constable in the first battalion of the Bihar Military Police, Thapa is now desperately waiting for the approval of his leave application so that he can get back home to help his parents.
Thapa is among 1,350 Gorkha soldiers in the force who have been in the vanguard of operations against Maoist rebels in the state.
While some have already left for home, many of these Gorkha soldiers are spending sleepless nights, unable to establish contact with their families following the snapping of communication links.
“My father told me there is no food. Neither has rescue teams reached them. With no option left, they are staying in open grounds of schools. I have applied for leave and am waiting for approval since my parents are hungry,” Thapa said on Tuesday.
Most of the survivors are older women and men and children as “the young men have all left to look for work elsewhere”, she said.
The quake killed more than 4,300 across Nepal and officials have confirmed 373 deaths in Gorkha district.
Some of the Gorkha soldiers based in Patna guard the chief minister’s residence while others are posted at the Raj Bhawan, the governor’s residence.
“My colleague Jai Lama of Chitwan Bharatpur is eagerly awaiting his leave sanction. His family members somehow managed to contact him to inform him that they are homeless,” a constable said.
The wife of another Gorkha trooper revealed that she had been “unable to contact my parents in Kathmandu” and pleaded with this reporter: “Can you help me?”
An official of the battalion said leave applications had arrived in bulk and it was not clear how many would be able to go home. “We have forwarded the applications to the control room. Duty is also important, so many may not manage the trip. The final decision will be taken by our commandant,” the official said.
Commandant Nishant Kumar Tiwary said about 20 personnel, who suffered huge losses and lost their homes, were granted leave and provided vehicles so that they could travel to Raxaul on the border with Nepal.
Tiwary said some five dozen Gorkha personnel lost their homes and something would be worked out so that most personnel can leave to attend to their families. The additional director general of the force, AK Upadhyay, said authorities would try to sanction leave to all personnel from Nepal and Darjeeling.
Udav Prashad Timalsina, the top official of Gorkha district, told the media on Monday that he was in desperate need of help, and was not getting enough from the government in Kathmandu.
The quake was centered in an isolated part of Gorkha district, 20 km from the town of Gorkha.