Bhuvan Chandra Uniyal, Dharmadhikari, Badrinath
Disaster is a warning from Lord Kedarnath; we need to desist from building hotels on the banks of the Ganga, creating big dams for hydro power, destroying the forests, and polluting the rivers. Therefore, a discipline must be followed in the Himalayas.
During the initial days of the tragedy, I was primarily in Badrinath, where about 15,000 people from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and also from abroad were stranded. The devastation caused by the nature was so huge that it is still difficult to explain in words. We, with the help of local people, the Pandas and also the activists of the Badrinath Mandir Samiti, first made arrangements for their meals and stay. Even the accommodations in hotels were provided free of cost. The temple Samiti also provided meals to the people. Arrangements for medicines were also made for the sick.
When the weather got clearer, the arrangements were made for rescue of the stranded people. Pilgrims were shifted to safer places on priority basis. For example: Those who were sick were sent first and the crippled were sent on second priority. Children were sent on third priority, while those who were fit were sent in the last. We don’t have words to praise the timely help provided by the army and Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel. My telephone number was circulated by the RSS workers as a helpline number in Badrinath. We rescued many people. Many calls were received not only from different states of the country but also from abroad seeking help for the stranded pilgrims. We also tried to help accordingly. I still receive many calls from different parts of the country and also abroad thanking for the help provided during those days. Basically, we did nothing extraordinary for anybody during the calamity. It was our duty to help those in distress. It is our age old culture.
As far as Kedarnath is concerned, thousands of people lost their lives there. I would rather say they got rest in the feet of Lord Kedarnath. We conducted a pinddaan programme in Haridwar for such departed souls on July 16. It was organised with the help of Ganga Sabha Haridwar and the Badrinath Mandir Samiti.
Apart from the pilgrims, the local people also suffered badly. Despite that they helped the pilgrims beyond their capacity. They provided their whole house to the pilgrims and themselves accommodated with the other families. In those circumstances also they did not insist rescuing them first. In the entire relief operation, the help of local people was really praiseworthy. They treated the pilgrims as their guests in the real sense.
After the tragedy, one fact agitates us everyday. The huge number of hotels built on the banks of the River Ganga is inviting more disasters. Through these hotels the holy river Ganga is insulted everyday. Entire dirty water is poured into the river. Therefore, the present disaster can also be treated as a punishment of the holy river for the insult that we human beings have inflicted to her.
Another thing is that the local herbs are being exploited mindlessly. Some local people are also helping the mafias of these herbs. These activities are causing huge damage to the forests and local ecology. When we take anything from the forests for even puja, we first worship the herbs and then take them. But these people seem bent upon destroying the entire ecology of the Himalayas. A discipline must be followed in the Himalayas by all. This present disaster is a warning from the nature and Lord Badrinath and Lord Kedarnath. Taking it seriously, we should desist from building hotels on the banks of the rivers, creating big dams for hydro power, destroying the forests and also tampering with the nature.
(As told to Pramod Kumar)