With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet ministers watching the rescue operation live, the multi-agency efforts to rescue 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi ultimately succeeded on Tuesday evening. The trapped workers came out one by one from the tunnel 17 days after the portion of the tunnel had collapsed. Emotions ran high and there were cheers when Vijay Horo, the first trapped worker from Jharkhand, was wheeled out by NDRF personnel. The entire 17-day-long rescue operation saw several ups and downs. Finally the rat-hole miners achieved the crucial breakthrough by manually digging through the debris. The rescued workers were first taken to Chinyalisour hospital, from where they were taken to AIIMS, Rishikesh, where doctors said, all the 41 workers are in good health.
The rat-hole miners belonged to a Delhi company that provides trenchless engineering services, and they dug through the last lap of 12 metres of debris. The rat-hole miners were brought in after the Auger tunnelling machine brought from the US failed, as its blades got entangled in rubble. The 41 workers, hailing from eight states, were trapped since November 12. Initially, loose structures were removed but it had to be stopped after debris began falling, injuring two workers. The American Auger machine was airlifted on Day 3, but its use was suspended after three days fearing further collapse. Prime Minister Modi, monitoring the entire rescue operation, sent his Principal Secretary, former adviser and other PMO officials to coordinate rescue efforts between NDRF, SDRF, army, BRO, DRDO and other agencies. Experts from five countries, who were tunnelling experts, were brought in.
The entire nation prayed for the lives of the trapped workers. It is a matter of pride that the 12 rat-hole miners achieved the nearly impossible objective by digging out the 12 metres of debris with spades. Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and Union Minister of State Gen (retd) V K Singh were present inside the tunnel, when the workers were rescued. On Wednesday, Dhami presented Rs 1 lakh cheque to each of the workers in hospital. Late on Tuesday night, Prime Minister Modi spoke to the rescued workers over phone and asked about the ordeal that they had faced during the critical period. Modi praised the grit and determination of the workers and rescuers. He tweeted, “The success of the operation has made everyone emotional. I want to tell the rescued workers that your courage and patience has inspired everyone. I also salute the spirit of all associated with this rescue operation. All those involved in this mission set an amazing example of teamwork and humane cooperation.” Chief Minister Dhami said, for the last 17 days, the Prime Minister used to ring him up twice a day to get updates about the rescue efforts. Dhami said, all the rescued workers will be allowed to stay with their families for one month, and they will be given their monthly wages.
The Silkyari tunnel was being constructed as part of the Char Dham project undertaken by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari was the first to express his joy over the rescue of the 41 workers. Gadkari said, the next step will be to carry out a scientific study of the entire project to ensure that such disasters do not occur in future. It is gratifying to note that the entire nation stood as one in praying for the lives of the workers. The entire government machinery put in its best efforts to save their lives. The 17-day-long battle to save their lives was ultimately won. The success underlines one important thing: if the entire nation puts its best efforts jointly, we can overcome any crisis, howsoever big it may be. Our army, Indian Air Force, NDRF, SDRF, BRO, Railway, ONGC, and experts from five countries pitched in with their efforts. When latest American tunnelling machines failed, our rat-hole miners chipped in and achieved the improbable feat.
The rescue mission became a success. But let me sadly point out one fact. There were unnecessary political jibes by opposition leaders at PM Modi during the 17-day crisis. Several Congress leaders made the lives of the trapped workers an issue to criticize Modi. Even on the last day of the rescue mission, some Congress leaders wrote on Twitter that Modi is busy in election campaign and he is not bothered about rescuing them. Now that all the 41 workers have been rescued, opposition leaders should praise the rescue mission carried out by the government. I personally feel that in times of crisis, when lives of people are at stake and when efforts are being made to save them, low-level politics is not justified. The people of India will not like this.
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