No way to return,stranded taxi drivers make their cars home

For hundreds of taxi drivers and owners from Punjab,Haryana,Rajasthan and Delhi who drove up to Gobind Ghat with pilgrims going to Sri Hemkunt Sahib,the horror of the Uttarakhand floods is yet to come to an end.

Written by Chitleen K Sethi | Chandigarh | Published:July 3, 2013 11:44 pm

For hundreds of taxi drivers and owners from Punjab,Haryana,Rajasthan and Delhi who drove up to Gobind Ghat with pilgrims going to Sri Hemkunt Sahib,the horror of the Uttarakhand floods is yet to come to an end.

While several lost their vehicles parked in the lower reaches of the Gurudwara,at least 750 vehicles are still parked on the roadsides in Gobind Ghat with the drivers and owners waiting there watching over the vehicles. The pilgrims they brought have returned to their native states but the nightmare of these several hundred drivers is yet to end. All road links to Rishikesh are broken and it is likely to take several weeks if not months before their homecoming begins.

Almost 600 of these vehicles are from Punjab from where the highest number of pilgrims go to Sri Hemkunt Sahib. “I came here from Ludhiana on the 15 th . I parked my car in the lower parking of the gurudwara. I saw the water rising and rushed to drive my car up. Many other drivers also did the same. Fifteen minutes later when we saw the parking ,there was no vehicle standing. All the cars parked in the lower parking had been washed away,” said Pradeep Walia,who took a batch of pilgrims from Ludhiana to Gobind Ghat on June 13.

“ I have been here since then. I cannot leave my vehicle here. Its my sole livelihood,my bread and butter,” added Walia.

Pradeep and many others like him are living on langar (community kitchen) organized by the drivers themselves. “Some of us do sewa (service) in the gurudwara and earn the food that we get. For many others who do not do any work through the day,food and water is not so easy to come by,” said Walia.

Gurdeep Singh another driver from Patiala waiting in Gobind Ghat since June 10 said everyone is sleeping in their vehicles and the cars have been their homes for the past fortnight. “There are many times we eat bread and sleep. We buy water to drink. Each case of water bottles costs Rs 300,” said Gurdeep.

The patience of many is now breaking. “Drivers are going back leaving the vehicles to the mercy of the locals. Others have told us to take care of them. We have no idea till will when we will be able to stay put,” said Gurdeep.

The drivers say there is no chance that the road which leads to Rishikesh will open in the coming few months. “The uncertainty where there is no hope is worse than going hungry and sleeping in the car,” said Gurdeep.

But there seems to be glimmer of hope for these drivers. “The BRO (Border Road Organization ) is constructing a kuchha road on the other side of the gurudwara. They are blasting through a mountain. It should not take more than two three days. A few houses are built near the blast site and the work is stopped . The BRO is likely to evacuate those houses tomorrow and carry out the blast ,” said Devinder Singh,the incharge of the Punjab government flood control room.

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