Today we went to Pancheri, a village which is about 40kms from Udhampur town. When we reached the closest point, we got off our car and talked to some local people including the Pradhan about the existing situations there. He told us that about 60houses had disappeared in the land slide and 40 people had died. We set out to see the actual site.
We had a group of local people helping us, they were already involved in relief work to a small extent. We were told that the walk up the hill may take us an hour or more… It definitely took more. Much more – we almost took two hours to get to the site. Though the climb was ardous for us plains dwellers, the local people kept us supplied with walnuts and local fruits which grew by the side of the twisting path.
From the road the damage did not seem very big, but when we got there the story was so very different. A swath of land a kilometer wide and two kilometers long was raw, the land seemed like it had been ploughed by a giant plough, strewn with gigantic boulders… devastation.
An ordinary day. But at 11am on the 6th within two minutes – the whole mountain side slid down in a gigantic explosion, smoke and dust clouded the site – when people were able to see, they found bare earth and rock – 60 houses had disappeared. Bare remnants of houses could be seen 300 to 400 meters down from where they were. An edge of a roof above the ground, the wooden pillars of a house sticking out of the ground, a hand sticking out of the earth… still. A few people were rescued, but 40 people disappeared. In the following days the rotting body parts of about 13 people were recovered. The police were still digging at the site, with not much of a sure way to know whether a body lay below. Manually digging for bodies, amongst boulders which may not budge with the might of a hundred people, a thankless job. But the SP was himself there, he said he would not give up, he would keep trying.
Two minutes and dreams 40 people disappear. But there are survivors. Amma says suppose a person whose natural life span may be 80 years, because he has no money to avail of the required medical aid, dies at 40 years… We are responsible for the lost 40 years.
We can’t restore life to those who have passed away, but to those in whom hope has died, who have lost a future – maybe we can restore hope, maybe we can give them a future.