Gursharan Singh,a taxi driver from Tarn Taran in Punjab,had recently bought a brand new Ford Endeavour after taking loans. And when he got a chance to take a batch of pilgrims to Hemkund Sahib,he grabbed it with both hands. Business was looking up.
That was until the night of January 16.
As floods hit Gobindghat,at the entry of the uphill trek to Hemkund Sahib,that night,Gursharans car was among the several vehicles washed away. Unable to bear the loss of his vehicle,and with the burden of loans on his mind,Gursharan too jumped into the river and committed suicide,said fellow taxi drivers who are still stranded here.
Gursharan could not bear the loss. He had taken loans from people back home. He jumped into the river in front of our eyes. We do not even know his address. His family might come looking for him here, said Gurjant Singh,a taxi driver stranded on the Joshimath-Gobindghat highway that is broken at two places.
A driver from Delhi whose vehicle got washed away near Hemkund Sahib also died of cardiac arrest. We packed his body,collected and paid Rs 20,000 to a private helicopter service,which was evacuating those stranded,and sent his body back to Delhi, Gurjant said.
Hundreds of vehicles,several of them taxis,are still stranded at Gobindghat. According to a state government count,there are 694 vehicles stranded in a six-km stretch. Landslides,continuous rain and unpredictable weather can create more mayhem anytime. But we do not have an option. We have taken vehicles on loan. We are already sufferring huge losses because we wont be able to bring pilgrims here,and the loans could not be paid back, said Jaswinder Singh,a taxi driver from Ludhiana.