AFTER one and a half month the nature wreaked havoc in Leh killing more than 200 people, the office bearers of Hindu Emergency Aid and Relief Team (HEART) again visited the region reeling under the reconstruction stage. HEART volunteers have already been working in Leh and its surrounding areas since August 6. The huge quantity of relief material had already been dispatched there by the HEART but the highest body wanted to review and survey the operation personally.
A seven member-delegation reached Leh in the morning of September 17. I was also a part of the delegation. Around 2.30 pm we started our journey to Leh city and its local areas where the floods had wreaked havoc. We got to know the intensity of the tragedy when we visited the areas like Mane Tredding and Choglamsar, the lower/sloppy part of the district centre. The leftover debris and the mud filled houses were still crying to tell their sad story. Trails of destruction were laying everywhere. Crumbling buildings and uprooted trees were seen at all the places. Nothing was spared, not even those situated a bit away from the river. The lower parts of the town still lie in heap of rubble with temporary tents as shelters for the homeless and volunteers doing their best to clean up the debris. The city of Leh, which is called roof of the world, was waiting for the roof for its residents.
Going through many affected areas and the high rise Kali temple we went for Sindhu darshan where we not only worshiped the holi river but also saw the charming sun set. The river water was seen golden due to the golden rays of the sun falling on it.
On second day, at 9.30 am, we left for our camp office, the relief godown and to visit the relief camps, villagers and the affected families. First of all we reached the place where the undistributed relief material was lying in a big godown. The material was being packed in small segments to distribute it to the affected people in an equated manner. We all sat in the godown and helped those packing the material. It was then loaded into a truck to carry it to a remote village.
The team headed by Swami Vigyananand Maharaj comprised of a doctor from Delhi (Dr Shilpi Tiwari), an educationist from Chennai (Dr Smt. Girija Seshadri who is also secretary of Hindu Vidya Kendra), a social worker from Delhi Shri Sanjeev Sawhney with his wife Smt. Sangeeta Sawhney. Two more social workers Shri BM Padmanabha Rao from Bengaluru and a Bouddh Bhikshu Wanchuk also joined us to help us identifying the critical areas for distribution of the relief material. Shri Jaidev, Kshetra Sewa Pramukh, also helped us a lot in the relief distribution.
We were directed to go to the village Saspochey, around 70 km away from Leh. The worst effected Leh bus stand, Radio station, district hospital, BSNL office and many other areas were telling their stories themselves. When we saw the Air force station, many defence installations, stupas, monasteries and the Gurudwara Pathar Shahib enroute, we got to know that the calamity did not touch these places. Travelling through the mountains we reached Saspochey. We called the village sarpanch to help us identifying the needy families and we gave them a set of utensils, blankets, and other material to carry their livelihood smoothly. Then we visited the houses still full of mud and in fully damaged condition. Much of the household material was lost in the mud and high speed water flown at mid night. Some of the family members also lost their lives. A part of the middle school building was collapsed. Many students were studying in tents whereas some of them were having permanent school structure. We met the school principal Smt Tsering Dolma to know the actual impact of the havoc and the way they were teaching their 30 students of different classes. It was a matter of great satisfaction that the school of a very remote and small village with a total strength of only 30 students was having its own computer set, TV set and a power backup device even though there was no electricity connection in the village. The villagers extended us a warm welcome with Ladakhi tea at the village Chaupal itself. The hospitality by an armyman’s wife touched our heart. Even if she was alone with her six month old kid, we all were called upon and served tea with Ladakhi roti. The kitchen, drawing room, store and even the toilet of her house were highly attractive. When we were returning, her husband Shri Tsewang Dorje also met us and thanked for our visit.
On returning, we sought the blessings of Gurudwara Pathar Shahib, built and maintained by the Indian army. We never saw the moon so closer than that day. We also visited the “Hall of Fame”, built by Indian Army in the memories of the great Indian soldiers spread in a large area surrounded by the mountains. The tricolour was flying high in the air and the words, sewa hi dharm hai (service is the duty) written on the high rise mountains, suddenly attracted our attention. The museum there carries a great collection of war memories. Many soldiers also lost their lives in this flood.
At the end, we tried to sum up our journey with these findings: