Survivors recall Jharkhand ropeway ordeal: ‘cheating death’ to ‘close call’
For Binoy Kumar Das, 72, the feeling of being alive is yet to sink in. Lying on a bed at Deogarh Sadar Hospital, he breaks down as he tries to narrate the 24-hour ordeal, stuck in a precariously hanging cable car. “It was a close call,” he said.
Belonging to Malda district in West Bengal, Das was on a trip to Gaya and had stopped midway to pay obeisance at the Trikut shrine when the ropeway malfunctioned.
“Waiting for help, everyone had stored their urine for emergency use, but, thankfully, the need didn’t arise,” said Das before leaving for his hometown.
Dharmendra Bhagat from Bihar was the last to be rescued by the Indian Air Force commandos on April 12, the final day of the operation. He and his family members were descending from the hilltop in two cable cars (No. 20 and 21) on April 10 evening when the first jerks and jolts were felt. “We suffered minor injuries…we thought all will be normal soon, but it took more than 40 hours. We were all scared to death. We cheated death,” said Bhagat.
By Tuesday afternoon, more than 55 people had been rescued from 24 trolleys on the 1,770-metre ropeway to the Trikut hills, a popular tourist spot. Eleven of those who were rescued on Sunday evening, including a woman who later succumbed to her injuries sustained inside the trolley. On Monday, 32 were rescued and one fell to death; and on Tuesday, 13 people were rescued and a woman died after a fall.
Bhagat’s relative Rakesh Kumar said that he was so much dehydrated that the first thing he demanded from the IAF commando was water. “We screamed water, water as drones couldn’t reach us. We quenched the thirst before entering the helicopter. It was the moment when I felt that the danger is finally over.”
Politicians made a beeline to the Sadar Hospital to meet survivors on April 12. One of those they met was 45-year-old Anita Dasi, who said she called up two MLAs and one Member of Parliament from the cable car, but none of them picked the call.
“We were in panic and didn’t know what to do. Not that receiving the phone call would have helped, but it would have been reassuring for us,” said Dasi, who is a social worker from Dumka. Her husband had passed away about a year ago and she lives with her daughters. Dasi said she has been ‘traumatised’ for life. “After I was rescued, I called my daughter and we both cried for a minute. Perhaps the blessings of people whom I helped as a social worker saved me,” she said.