Even as search operations are on to locate the students of a city-based engineering college washed away in Beas river in Himachal Pradesh, there seems to be no respite from unending ordeal for their parents and relatives waiting for a word on the fate of their dear ones.
With not much headway on their whereabouts three days after the tragedy, the anxious parents and kin of some of the students are now seeking their bodies, presuming them to be dead while others have still kept their hopes alive.
Amid fading hopes, a group of parents of the ill-fated students appealed to the authorities to redouble efforts to find the bodies.
“Had there been a ‘danger sign’, the students would not have ventured anywhere near,” a parent commented.
“We don’t expect all the missing students to be alive. We now need at least bodies to be handed over to us. We want to see their face. We are begging now. Please, please. This is appeal from 24 parents (of students),” another pleaded.
The 24 students of the VNR Vijyana Jyothi Institute of Engineering here, part of the 48-member group that had gone on a study tour on June 3, were swept away in the swirling waters of the Beas river while taking photographs on Sunday.
Six bodies have so far been fished out, while efforts are on find 18 other missing students and one tour operator.
With no information on the whereabouts of Akhil, every passing moment is becoming unbearable for his father M Sanjay Kumar.
“There is no information from anyone with regard to my son’s whereabouts. It is three days since the incident happened. On Thursday is his birthday. Last time when he spoke to me he said he would be celebrating his birthday in Delhi along with another friend whose birthday happens to be on the same day (June 12),” an inconsolable Kumar told PTI over phone from Warangal district of Telangana.
Praying every minute, Veeranna, father of another missing student Chinnam Parameshwar, was still nurturing hope about his son remaining alive as he was an expert swimmer.
“My son knows swimming. He can swim in the water for at least two hours. I am hopeful he is alive and will come back safely. We got information that he rescued at least two drowning girls and while trying to save another student he was washed away,” said Veeranna, from Narasampet town in Warangal district.
Veeranna has put up a flexi cutout outside his home, displaying photo of his son with an emotional message asking him to return alive.
In Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district, the relatives of P Rithima were also hopeful that she might have survived.
Srujan Panuganti, who survived the tragedy, recalled that he too was taking photographs minutes before the incident and had come back to the bus to take a bottle to collect the holy water of Beas and take it back to Hyderabad.
“On the way, a local man told me a siren has been sounded on release of water from the dam and I rushed towards my friends and started alerting those in the river…but with sudden heavy release of water my classmates were washed away,” Srujan said at his residence in Bandlaguda here.
As Srujan was narrating the incident, he got a call on his mobile and his voice became choked for a while as he was lost for words. He broke down after hearing the news about the death of his close friend Shabir Hussain Sheikh, whose body was recovered from the river on Wednesday.
Srujan’s father Vishwanth said they had shut down the TV since his son came back home as the coverage in the visual media would have added to his already traumatic experience.
Meanwhile, the final rites of Debashish Bose were conducted on Wednesday after his body was brought to the city last night. The last rites of four other students have already been completed amid heart-rendering scenes.
Andhra Pradesh Minister P Narayana, who is supervising the search operations in HP, said he was hopeful that the remaining bodies were likely to surface on the river by Wednesday evening or Thursday.
“We are exploring on pressing more manpower and usage of other technologies to locate the bodies as the weather is also obstructing the search operations and water is also being released into the river. By Wednesday evening or Thursday more bodies are likely to float on the water and we will hand over them to their parents,” he said.
Telangana Home Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy, who is camping in Mandi along with parents of missing students, said, he has already sought involvement of more forces including from military, for the search operation and expressed hope that more bodies were likely to be traced in a day or two.
“We want to involve more military personnel for search operations, besides deploying advanced equipment including latest under-water search cameras for divers to further strengthen the ongoing efforts,” Reddy said.
Meanwhile, BJP Telangana state president and MLA G Kishan Reddy on Wednesday urged Prime minsiter Narendra Modi to use latest technology to trace the missing students in river Beas, in addition to deploying the Navy for more focused search.
There is an impression among parents and relatives of the missing students that though the government and defence forces are trying their best, technology has not been fully deployed to trace them, as three days have passed since the tragedy and only six bodies have been recovered so far, he said in a letter to Modi.