By: Harjeet Singh
Two youths were drowned when they went for a bath in the Ghaggar river near Bhankharpur village, on the Chandigarh-Ambala highway, on Wednesday afternoon, and unknowingly stepped into a ditch on the riverbed, caused by illegal mining of sand and stones.
The victims have been identified as Sukhdev Singh (22), who runs a grocery store, and Sonu (19), a class XI student, both of Faidan village in Chandigarh. Sukhdev, who knew swimming, died while trying to save Sonu.
The two, along with Dilbara Singh (26), class XI student Abhishek Kumar (18), and Ajay (22), had gone to the river near the Markanda Temple to immerse religious offerings made at a jagrata,which was organised at Sukhdev’s house last night.
After immersing the offerings, they decided to take a bath in the river. Derabassi SDM Sanjeev Kumar said that the temple priest asked them not to go into the river, but they ignored him.
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Unknowingly, the five stepped into a ditch on the riverbed and started drowning. Only Sukhdev and Dilbara knew swimming. Dilbara managed to save Ajay and Abhishek. Sukhdev tried to save Sonu, but Sonu clung on to him in panic and both were drowned.
Soon, locals gathered at the spot and police was informed. The families of the victims also arrived. The SDM said that a private rescue team from Rajpura in Patiala was called which arrived at the scene at around 8 pm and fished out the bodies.
The families of the victims blamed the administration for failing to rescue the youths in time. Sonu’s uncle Bacha Ram said, “Firstly, the authorities have not put up boards on the riverbank saying that swimming in the river is dangerous. Moreover, even though Sonu and Sukhdev were feared drowned at 3.30 pm, no rescue team arrived at the spot until late in the evening.”