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Medics' mite to flood-hit Uttarakhand villagers

Gautam Dheer Chandigarh: July 22, 2013 DH News Service 3:17 IST
Dr Aditya attends to patients at a village in Uttarakhand.
A team of strong-willed doctors trekked over 40 km to two marooned villages in Uttarakhand, where, until a few days ago, not even the best of the Army or paramilitary personnel could reach.

Carrying 13-kg backpacks containing medicines and supplies on their shoulders, this team of doctors - some obese and in their late forties - surmounted all skepticism and vagaries of the weather to provide medical care to people who were in desperate need of help. The team, led by Haryana-based Aditya Insan, a senior consultant opthalmologist, was in fact the first medical relief unit to reach Chillond village.

Insan recounts how reaching Chillond was a conquest in itself. Talking to Deccan Herald here after returning from the five-day trip, Insan said: “These villages were battling tragedy. We held elaborate grief counseling sessions and taught yoga asanas.”

Another team led by Sumit Upadhyaya was the first to reach Syansu village. The doctor developed chickenpox and had to be evacuated. “The people were suffering from acute depression and insomnia. Diarrhoea, viral fever, abscesses, bronchial asthma and chronic diseases had done the damage,” Insan said.

Weighing around 100 kg, Gaurav Aggarwal, an MD in internal medicine who was among the four medics to reach Chillond, said his last brush with athleticism was in 1992 when he ran a marathon in the first year of medical school at Banaras Hindu University. But on the treacherous terrains in the hill state, Aggarwal was absolutely sure of what he wanted. He had for company people like Dr Lokesh and Ramesh, a senior dialysis technician.

The doctors owe allegiance to Dera Sacha Sauda, a sect that has a huge following in many states. Doctors like Swapnil Garg, Sumit, Mohit, Kirti and Shreya were part of the sect’s medical team in Uttarakhand. Sect head Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the inspiration behind the mission, said: “In due course, we may extend our initiative to rehabilitate widows. We will also adopt ravaged villages and help in reconstructing infrastructure and build houses for the poor free of cost.”

Recalling a few death-defying experiences, Insan said: “Death seemed near. Chillond’s vital bridge had been washed away. Every two-three days, the locals would wedge a couple of logs across. For them, crossing the logs was easy. The mountain river roared in all its fury. The wood logs trembled precariously as heavyweight doctors shuffled across.”

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