Uttarakhand: a tiny village does what a state fails to do
A tiny Himalayan village professing both Buddhism and Hinduism is spreading the message of humanity amidst the worst ever disaster in the upper reaches of the Ganges. Bhagori, all of about 350 families is reaching out to the pilgrims-tourists stranded because of floods. Prasad Nichenametla reports.india Updated: Jun 24, 2013 02:10 IST
A tiny impoverished Himalayan village on the banks of the Bhagirathi river has done what the state government is still struggling to do - reach out to the stranded and offer them some comfort.
Residents of Bhagori, a village of around 350 families, are providing food to the hundreds of pilgrims awaiting their turn to be airlifted from the Harsil army helipad, which is close to the village and 25km downstream from pilgrim town of Gangotri in the flood-ravaged Uttarkashi district.
The villagers, mostly shepherds, weavers, small farmers and some servicepersons, bring in whatever they can afford -- cooking oil, flour and lentils.
The women then cook and offer the pilgrims dal-chawal or puri-sabzi. Tea is available through the day.
Visiting home for their annual vacation, young men and women, students in Delhi, Dehradun and other cities, escort the survivors to the community kitchen set up in an apple orchard. They have spilt duties.
Some take drinking water to the pilgrims queuing up for the helicopter in the searing heat of the sun.
"Do not worry about us. We have enough grain to feed ourselves. Please eat well," 56-year-old Shanta Devi assures the pilgrims as she kneads dough for puris.
Villagers, who practice both Hinduism and Buddhism, set up the kitchen on Thursday but haven't kept the count of the meals served.
"We will continue this kitchen till the pilgrims are here or till our resources last."
"We're grateful to these villagers who are keeping us alive when the government here seems to be dead," said Naresh Devgan, a businessman from Ludhiana.
Like Devgan, most of the people have run out of money. The nearest ATM is 70 km away in Uttarkashi town, which is cut-off as rain has washed away roads. Repairs will take at least two weeks.
The village kitchen complements the efforts of the 5th Battalion of the Garhwal Rifles stationed at Harsil.
Around 2,000 pilgrims are staying in its barracks and the local school.
Every day, new people join in and supplies are running low.
"We will soon run out of supplies but for now, we will eat the same dal-chawal together," says commanding officer Col Pradeep Singh.
Army officials haven't been asked by the district authorities to help but are taking in pilgrims purely on humanitarian grounds.
The images are of the people of Bhagori doing their best to extend help to those stranded due to the Uttarakhand flood. (Photos by Prasad Nichenametla)