When the news of the Uttarakhand floods broke out on 17th June, all YouthForSeva Chapter Coordinators got in touch with YFS Delhi office for latest reports on rescue and relief operations. YFS had decided to focus on education needs, which were the main concern of the natives. The primary action items were rebuilding of damaged schools, scholarships to children whose families were affected by the tragedy. 15 days after massive floods in Uttarakhand. Team of 20 Youth For Seva Fellows from Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi meet in New Delhi. The experience in Himalayan terrains was truly incredible to us. We started our journey on 10th Aug, 2013, and reached Hazrath Nizamuddin Railway station on 11th Aug, 2013 0900 Hours. We reached the RSS Delhi office in Jandewalan, escorted by a Sewa International volunteer.
Crossing live landslides and narrow paths was scary
Volunteers from Youth For Seva Bangalore, Delhi & Chennai were awaiting us. Shyam Parande Ji briefed us about the objectives of the trip. At around 1400 Hours we left for Haridhwar. From there the team of 21 split into two teams. One team covered the areas around the Haridhwar and Laksar.
The other team covered areas around the Uttarakashi. After a long journey we reached the Sewa Ashram at Maneri. Next day at the first light, we witnessed the destruction made by Ganga maa. 50% of the Ashram building, where we stayed during our previous visits, was washed away by the floods. There were 80 students in that Ashram school. This Ashram gave food and shelter to hundreds of flood effected families who lost their homes and agricultural lands.
I must appreciate the care takers of the Ashram who dedicated their entire life to social cause.
They were very hospitable, especially Mr. Anand ji who has been a social activist since 1988. The people like him are the “Guardians of the Goodwill”. In the early hours of 13th we were further divided into two teams to make our job easier. I and three volunteers (Vijay, Prem, and Aditya) from Bangalore chapter voluntarily step forward to go to Bhatwari which is 15KM away from Maneri.
The reason we chose to go to Bhatwari was because it was one of the most effected block of Uttarakashi District & the care takers of the Ashram told us that to reach Bhatwari we have to go through the toughest path which includes 13KM trekking, landslides, snow melt water streams. After getting to know this me, Prem, Vijay & Aditya spontaneously agreed to move further up the mountains to Bhatwari without a second thought. As we were together for the next few days, I got to know that each one of our team members were very adventurous, always looking for challenges & of course do every bit of help that was possible by us for the people there. So we step forward to go further deep into the Himalayas. Then onwards our team named as “Bhatwari Team” (The Bravest). Journey to Bhatwari started with 8KM trekking. Balwindar Singh RSS Swayam Sewak guided us in our journey.
The path is very tough & tricky, either up hill or down hill,3000 to 5000 feet up and less than one feet narrow path. One wrong step will lead us to death
The path is very tough & tricky, 3000 to 5000 feet up and less than one feet narrow path. One wrong step will lead us to death. We moved from civilization to isolation. I don’t have words to explain what I felt in these majestic mountains.
On our way we met the brave and strong hill people those who are happily enjoying their “PAHADI JEEVAN”. I found the mighty Himalayas a wonderful, almost meditative place to spend a week. They are travelling through these paths along with 25 to 50 KGs weight on their shoulders on barefoot every day. We took 3 hours to cross 8KM trekking path mean while they delivered the luggage in Bhatwari and returned to the Maneri in 3 Hours.
Taste of the water from the snow melt water streams touched our hearts. All I can do is thank god for my luck.
The other thing I noticed that they don’t hesitate and don’t get tired to do that every day. They are enjoying their daily routine. I must accept that they have extraordinary physical and mental strength. When we are trekking for more than 15KM on one go, a tussle goes on between our mind and your heart that is, should we give up or should we continue. Our temperament and enthusiasm says “continue”. People with shear physical strength cannot trek 30 KM in four hours. We observed the PAHADI life style, the way they are living the way they are gel with nature. After three hour trek we reached a village called “Malla”. We took up a vehicle. He drove us up to “Lata”.
On the way we meet with Rajeev. He is a volunteer from Plan India Organization. They are surveying in the remote villages which are untouched by both Government and UDPS. After the survey they shortlisted the highly effected families those who have house hold card (Ration Card). They distributed 15Kgs of Rice, 1kg Tea powder, 3Kgs of Sugar 2 KG Daal to each family. We walked 5KM further to reach Bhatwari. Bhatwari is one the village in most effected village in this area. Next day morning we split into two teams and move further in opposite directions. I and Prem went towards Pahi village. Veer Singh Negi Ji and Vishnu Panwar guided us to communicate with hill people. We couldn’t have done it without them.
On the way some school children join with us and they gave Himalayan Apple, Acrot, Pears, Wall nuts
Pahi is a village with 45 families. Few villagers gathered to collect the token from Plan India NGO. We interacted with Gram Pradhan (Sarpanch) and few more villagers to know the problems they facing in daily life. They are facing transportation problem to get their groceries and daily needs. We refreshed at Vishnu’s home with yummy Himalayan Thali. The hill people showed amazing hospitality and respect. Every villager we meet offering a cup of tea to us. We continued our survey in Dhwari village and moved further towards Natin. We crossed a bridge over the floating Ganga maa which is 200 feet in depth. Before entering to the village, we meet a couple. They migrated to Gujarat from Maharashtra. 3 years they came here to live a pleasant and spiritual life in Himalayas. We gave lots of information what we need actually. We didn’t expect highly educated brains in middle of Himalayas. They are guiding local students in their studies and teaching English to them. We finished our survey and returned to Bhatwari. Approximately we walked 55 odd kilometers in 3 days and that too most of this is either uphill or downhill. I’m sure I’ll want to go back again in the years ahead.