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BSF rose to the occasion: People

By A M Sofi in Uri
October 23, 2005 21:04 IST
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For the villagers of Dachhi in North Kashmir, the Border Security Force posted in the area have become angels of mercy as they rescued them from the rubble and are helping them rebuild their homes in the aftermath of the devastating quake on October 8.

The 19th battalion of BSF, posted in the village, was quick on the scene, pulling out survivors from the rubble and providing succour to the injured and the quake affected.

Forty-year-old Rehmat Bi gratefully remembers the jawans who pulled her and her daughter Rashida Bano out their collapsed house after the quake.

"I, along with my daughter and grand-daughter, was inside the house when it came down.

I thought it was over... but God saved us as BSF troops deployed in the village rescued us from the rubble," she said, pointing towards a razed structure where her house stood.

Commanding officer of the battalion, D K Sharma, said his troops swung into action as soon as the people started crying calling for help once the tremors subsided.

All the 240 houses in the village have been damaged either completely or partially, he said, adding they managed to rescue over 50 people, from the debris of their house.

Bi's husband Nazir Ahmad said his family had survived and he was 'very thankful to God for that'. He also acknowledged the BSF's timely action, which helped saved their lives.

Living in a tent provided to the family by the force, he praised the paramilitary force for doing a 'tremendous job'.

"They not only provided us timely help in rescuing our dear ones but also gave us tents and other essentials for our safety".

Ali alleged that despite a fortnight having passed no one other than security personnel and volunteers has reached them with relief.

Similar sentiments are echoed by the survivors of Kalgai village on the Uri-Muzaffarabad road.

"A day after the October 8 earthquake, BSF personnel posted in nearby areas came to our rescue and provided us tents, food and other items to save our lives," Numberdar of Kalgai Jan Mohammad said.

He criticised the government for its inability to reach them. The government has announced the first installment of cash relief at Rs 40,000 but nothing has reached us so far, he rued.

On the assistance provided by the government, he said only 11 kg of ration to one member of each family and a blanket have been handed over to them so far.

Located on a hillock adjacent to the road leading to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Kalgai is inhabited by 1,200 people who lived in over 250 houses. The earthquake destroyed all the houses in the village and also killed 12 persons.
Another villager and Congress activist Ali Zaman Khan, came down sharply on ministers, who he said had failed to visit them.

"Even Union Urban Development Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, camping in Kashmir to oversee relief work, did not bother to visit us, although he visited other areas nearby," he said.

However, he was all praise for the security forces, especially the BSF, saying they even stopped relief trucks being brought by civilians, for us.

"We have done whatever we could manage at that time," Sharma said, adding the force provided the survivors of Kalgai with 55 small snow tents and 11 big tents with two blankets in each tent.

Sharma said they also provided the victims rations for three days in succession, after the earthquake struck.

He said on the fateful day, BSF first concentrated on those villages, which were approachable.

Kalgai and other areas were cut off by landslides after the quake. Even Uri town, which was cut off, was cleared by BSF troops.

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A M Sofi in Uri
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