Jammu: They are unsung “dare-devils”, who risk their lives to protect unknown passengers or other persons in distress all along an accident as well as landslide-prone Banihal-Ramban stretch.
They play “Good Samaritans” with bare minimum facilities yet what makes their role, in particular crucial, is their “response time” to any tragedy taking place at this infamous stretch of Srinagar –Jammu National Highway, which has already consumed innumerable lives so far.
They are the first ones to land and extend a helping hand to anyone and everyone in distress, well before the arrival of “official response teams.”
Thus the rescue operations by these “dare devil” volunteers become important to save the lives of accident victims.
These volunteers comprise the local youth living along vulnerable routes at different locations along the highway from Banihal to Ramban. They have formed groups to volunteer themselves to rescue the unknown accident victims.
55-year old, Shahjahan Mir leads a team of Himalayan QRT in Ramsoo, comprising nearly 40 volunteers. He is one of the oldest volunteers known for his diving skills in Chenab river. “I’ve been working as a volunteer for the last 35 years,” president, Himalayan QRT Ramsoo, Abdul Rehman Sohail told Greater Kashmir.
Sohail was studying in 7th class in a government school at Ramsoo when he witnessed a tragic road accident and rushed towards the site where he saw some passionate youth who volunteered themselves to rescue accident victims. “One of those ‘dare-devils’ was Shahjahan Mir who dived into the mighty Chenab river to rescue the injured,” recalled Sohail, who was then a student.
Inspired by this act, Sohail too decided to become a volunteer.
He said, “Our group of volunteers has carried out rescue operations at one of the most vulnerable highway stretches from Battery Chashma and Sher Bibi up to Chamalwas.”
“Now people are aware and they inform us immediately whenever some road accident occurs,” he said, adding that most of the volunteers lived close to the highway and hence, it would become easy for them to start rescue operations within minutes after the road accidents.
He said that they were provided basic training by the Rashtriya Rifles of Indian army as how to carry out rescue operations and give CPRs to the accident victims in case of requirement.
Recalling one such horrific incident, he said “In the month of December 2003, 26 people, including 7 members of a family, were killed when a mini-bus rolled into a gorge along a link road in Ramban district’s Ukhral. This road accident had an emotional impact on all the volunteers, who were involved in the rescue operation.”
“Being a hilly area, we have observed that most of the road accidents happen due to casual approach of the drivers, over-speeding and over-loading. Often minor mistakes lead to tragic road accidents and we have been witness to it for the last two decades,” he said.
Similarly, he recalled that a family of five persons from Anantnag lost contact with the members of their family at home in 2013 when they were travelling somewhere near Battery Chashma. “I remember, they were returning from the Tatta-Pani area near Sangaldan,” he said.
“We launched a rescue operation with other agencies after detecting their last mobile phone location. Their bodies could be found after four days of road accident. They were decomposed. That time, no one dared to come close to them. Hence, we (volunteers) brought their bodies up and then they were shifted for autopsy,” he said, recalling how people were avoiding coming close to the volunteers who had recovered decomposed bodies.
Like Sohail, another group of volunteers works under Bashir Ahmed Magrey in Ramban district with a team of over 29 members.
“We always remain on alert 24/7,” incharge, Civil QRT team Ramban district, Bashir Ahmed Magrey told Greater Kashmir.
Magrey recalled that 7 years back, one of the terrifying road accidents took place near Army camp in Digdol around 4 am when a Tata Sumo with passengers on board skidded off the highway and plunged into the Chenab river.
“Those travellers had come from Punjab’s Hoshiarpur and were heading towards Pahalgam. However, they had met with an accident and got killed,” he recalled.
He said, “When we went down, deep into the gorge, we found scattered body parts. The scene was horrifying. No one was going close to the bodies due to their worse condition. However, we agreed to the request of a police officer and collected the body parts in a large round tray of metal.” “We packed the body parts in packing structures,” he added.
“When we were collecting the body parts of the accident victims, some of the volunteers were engaged in a rescue operation in Chenab river. We could see their faces only,” he recalled a rescue operation. He said the volunteers come from different backgrounds but one motive united them and that was - to save the accident victims at the cost of their lives.