Shambhu Prasad Chamola, Joshimath
The nature’s fury devastated all the life, property and network in and around Kedarnath, Badrinath, and Hemkund Sahib—the sacred place of Sikhs on June 15. Forty km national highway from Joshimath was completely washed away stranding nearly 40,000 pilgrims at Badrinath and 15,000 at Hemkund Sahib. Ninety nine houses of Pulna, Bhyudar and other villages situated on this road were totally swept away in the flooding waters. There was major damage at main camp of Hemkund Sahib at Govindghat and Pandukeshwar. Fourteen villages on way to Badrinath Dham were completely wiped out. The government found itself helpless and handed over the relief work to the Army.
Meanwhile, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) swayamsevaks prepared a plan to help the victims and opened the relief centre at Saraswati Vidya Mandir Inter College, Joshimath. The groups of RSS swaymasevaks were helping the pilgrims and local people in this hour of crisis. A langar was set up at this centre from June 19 to July 1 for the pilgrims along with the arrangements for their night stay. 1,600 people were provided meals and 1,000 people took night shelter here.
The RSS swayamsevaks opened three more relief centers at Gandhi Maidan, Helipad, at Joshimath and the third one at a distance of 20 km at Govindghat where food, water, health and other relief material was provided to 20,000 pilgrims for 12 days. 400 people telephoned to know the whereabouts of their kins. 150 of them were informed about the safety of their family members.
Because of the service activities, the relations between the Army, ITBP jawans and RSS men became so cordial that on many occasion the RSS swayamsevaks took meals for the security men engaged in relief and rescue operations. The only option to reach Badridham was by air which was completely in the control of the Army. The Army took two of the RSS swayamsevaks – Rakesh Baudai and Devendra Singh Rawat— as a result of these cordial relations, to Badridham where there was an urgent and express need for service activities of RSS. They stayed there from June 25 to 30 helping the affected people. Local administration was all praise for the RSS for its relief and rescue work. The local administration and army officials visited the RSS relief centre and showered praise on them. They said that the RSS was doing commendable work. A mediaman, relative of one affected family, who came to Badrinath from Shaktinagar, Delhi, visited the RSS relief camp and said: “I am a Communist. What I have read about RSS was totally wrong and baseless. RSS is an honest and dedicated organisation. I am very much influenced by the work of RSS here.”
The RSS swayamsevaks did not lag behind in helping the local people also. Utensils, clothes, and daily use articles were supplied to the affected families of Pulna, and Bhyundar villages on June 24 which was incidentally the very first relief material that could reach to these hapless human beings. Food grains and other daily use articles were distributed to 800 families of Lambagad, Pandukeshwar, Belakuli, Daidil, Urgam, Basa, and Gira villages. The RSS has so far extended food grains to people of 14 most affected villages.
Arrangements of free education for children of the affected villages are being made at Saraswati Vidya Mandirs and Shishu Mandirs by the RSS. Local people also joined the RSS relief work and many armymen expressed their desire to join RSS after their retirement. The RSS swayamsevaks toured 24 inaccessible villages and conducted a survey there and are still working to take relief to the affected people.