Every time someone falls in the Mukerian hydel channel or the Beas, intentionally or accidentally, the first thing the local police do is to call local diver Gurdip Singh who has saved scores of lives and fished out hundreds of bodies.
He does not think twice before jumping into the gushing waters which are sometimes as deep as 50 feet. His diving skills and success rate has earned him the sobriquet “Sikandar”.
The eighth pass carpenter does not remember when he made a beginning as a rescuer but recalls several instances when he put his own life to danger to save someone else’s. He claims to have recovered more than 5000 bodies from under the water in the last 20 years or so.
Of late, the MCH has become a hot spot for suicide bidders. Innumerable persons have leapt to death in its waters. “On an average, 15-20 persons drown in the hydel channel every month. Some of them come from far off places. Very few are saved alive. Sometimes the bodies are recovered days after the incident”, claims the 43-year-old. “I am a self trained swimmer like most of the children in villages who jump in rivers and ponds to have a bath”, he adds.
Sikandar claims that he can predict a person’s possible suicide attempt from his face and body language. “In case, I come across such a person, I follow him and ensure that he does not take the drastic step. In a couple of cases, when the suicide bidder outsmarted me and actually jumped in the canal, I immediately followed suit and dragged them out safely”, he maintains.
Ask him if he does not fear for his life given that he has to dive without any equipment, he shrugs his shoulders and says “Bilcul nahin (not at all)”. “Sometimes I have to remain in waters for hours. Recently when a car fell in the Shah Nehar carrying six members of the family, I had to swim several kilometres in search the vehicle”, he informs.
“One of my most memorable rescues was when a woman threw her two kids in the river and then jumped herself. As soon as I came to know, I rushed to the spot, dived in the water and pulled all the three up live”, he recalls. “Then there was a newly married teacher who attempted suicide but I rescued her”, he shares.
In 2005, he rescued a police patrolling van from the MHC and since then he has become an indispensible entity to the local police. His services are requisitioned by the police also but he is never paid anything, neither by the police nor by the concerned families. He has to pay even the fuel charges from his own pocket.