BY Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, April 29: A pall of gloom descended in Guwahati as bodies of six women from Assam, killed in the Nepal earthquake, reached today, even as the State government came under criticism for alleged failure to help its people in the catastrophe-hit neighbouring Himalayan tion.
The bodies of the six victims reached Guwahati in a special Air India flight at around 1.20 pm, after being first flown to New Delhi in an Indian Air Force flight from Kathmandu in the wee hours today.
The bodies were accompanied by family members, who had rushed to Kathmandu following the killer earthquake to find the whereabouts of their kin.
All six women were part of a group on a pilgrimage to Nepal. Four of the deceased are from Hengerabari area of Guwahati and one each from Rajgarh and rikalbasti areas respectively. The last rites of the victims were performed at bagraha cremation ground this evening.
Another member of the same group has also been killed in the quake, but her body is yet to be recovered.
The bodies were received at the LGBI airport by cabinet ministers Dr Bhumidhar Barman and Rockybul Hussain, besides district administration officials.
A large number of people, along with family members and friends, gathered at the airport.
But the ministers and officials had to face ire of the victims’ family, who had to endure severe difficulties and uncertainties in bringing back the bodies.
Prab Adhikari, a relative of one of the victim, Kalpa Adhikari, alleged that they received no help from the Indian Embassy at Kathmandu and were abandoned at the runway of the airport at Kathmandu, with the bodies in a truck, at 4 pm yesterday and flown to New Delhi in an IAF flight only at 5 am this morning. “We did not have any food since yesterday. Seeing our plight, a pilot from Belgium offered us some cold drinks. We could not even come out of the airport as we did not have tickets,” he said.
“We do not need sympathy from the government now. They were not there when we needed them the most. My sister-in-law’s body was recovered on the very first day. It is because of our persol initiatives that we could identify the body at a hospital on April 27. There were communication gaps between the Indian government and the embassy in Kathmandu. We had to virtually beg to allow us to bring the body to India,” Prab exclaimed in utter anguish.
While five of the bodies were brought to their homes in mortuary vans provided by the government, the family of Kalpa Adhikari refused to avail of the government assistance.
Kalpa’s daughter had survived the killer quake with severe injuries and reached Guwahati two days back.
A large number of people also gathered at the Kali Mandir area of Hengerabari where tributes were paid to four of the victims – Ri Das, Bhanita Deka, Bhumika Das and Jayshree Bora - at the premises of Karbi Yuva Sangha.
Meanwhile, facing criticism for allegedly failing to help the people from the State stranded in Nepal or provide information of their whereabouts to families here, the State government has stepped up its relief operations.
Additiol Director General of Police Umesh Kumar has been already deputed to proceed to Kathmandu and liaise with the Indian Embassy and local authorities at Kathmandu to facilitate locating the whereabouts of untraced persons, to ensure provision of proper medical assistance to the injured, and safe return of the affected people hailing from Assam back to India and their respective residences.
A special team has also been formed by the State government to help the affected people from the State in Nepal.
“Following the major earthquake in Nepal on April 25, and the reports of a large number of people of Assam being affected in different parts of Nepal, the Government of Assam hereby constitutes a special Disaster Magement Team for extending services to the affected people from Assam in Nepal,” an official statement said here today.
The team will be led by Inspector General of Police SN Singh and comprise several police officials, medical officers, nursing staff, one unit of State Disaster Response Force and six drivers.
The team will immediately proceed to Kathmandu by road with necessary personnel, vehicles, medicines, etc, the statement added.
The State government has already opened several helpline numbers for those stranded in Nepal and their families in India.
As per government sources, 22 people from the State are still untraced in Nepal, 119 people have returned, 13 others are safe in Nepal and seven are undergoing treatment there.
The Assam government meanwhile has announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 4 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased.