Barely 12 hours after 44 passengers of a private tourist bus had a miraculous escape from death after their vehicle fell into the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC), a tributary of the Ravi river at Madhopur, around 9pm on Sunday night, the lucky pilgrims left for their native towns in a Punjab Roadways bus on Monday morning, with loads of respect and gratitude for Punjabis, especially the residents of Pathankot and Madhopur.
Grateful and beaming passengers, most belonging to Gurgaon and the Shahadra area of New Delhi, were bowled over by the courage of the state’s residents.
A passenger Priyanka Maheshwari, 23, said, “We can never forget the gracious and the courageous manner in which the residents of the state helped us. Right from arranging clothes to serving food, they went to a lot of trouble to save total strangers. They will always be an inspiration.”
She added that members from a non-government organisation (NGO) Pathankot Vikas Manch, besides some administration officials worked hard to ensure that the accident victims were safe.
Another passenger Neelansh, a boxer, who broke many windowpanes with his elbows, to help others get out of the bus, said, “The way local residents cheerfully went through a sleepless night for our sake is unbelievable. Even the administration has pitched in by arranging a bus for us to travel to our home towns.” He added that thanks were also due to irrigation department official Kirpal Singh who closed the water gates at Madhopur to help lower the water level in the canal.
Pathankot Vikas Manch president Rakesh Kala said, “The rescue effort was a result of team work. We arranged clothes, eatables and all other basic, but necessary items for passengers.”Pathankot deputy commissioner Sukhvinder Singh said the team of senior medical officer Dr Bhupinder Singh deserved to be feted for its commitment to duty.
“The SMO and his team remained on duty till the pilgrims were sent back to their homes on Monday morning. This is commendable,” the DC said. SSP RK Bakshi claimed that the driver of the tourist bus Saraffudin Khan had been booked under Sections 279 (rash driving or driving in a public way), 337 (endangering life and personal safety of others), 338 (causing grievous hurt by endangering life and personal safety of others) and 427 (mischief) at the Sujanpur police station.