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'Can't Lose Another Son': Mother of Worker Trapped in Uttarkashi Tunnel

"The last time we spoke to him, he was upset that he couldn't visit us on Diwali," says his mother.

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Video Producer: Mayank Chawla

Video Editor: Mohd. Irshad Alam

Twenty two year-old Manjeet Chauhan, Kamala's son, is one of 41 workers who have been trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi for more than a week now.

Attempts were still being made on Monday, 20 November, to clear the passageways to the tunnel in order to rescue the workers. While that happened, the families of the trapped men, such as that of Manjeet, were anxious and worried for the safety of men.

In a small veranda in front of their house in Uttar Pradesh's Bhairampur village, Manjeet's mother was seen choking up and holding back tears as she talked about her only son who had left the village two months ago in search of work. Kamala also has two daughters.

"My daughter spoke to him the last time before he was trapped. The government keeps telling us that the machine will come and they will take him out, so that is what we're being told repeatedly. No success yet," Kamala told The Quint.
"The last time we spoke to him, he was upset that he couldn't visit us on Diwali," says his mother.

The Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi.

(Photo: PTI)

"I have already lost my eldest son who was a labourer in Mumbai. Manjeet is the only son I have and he's not married nor does he have any children. He's my only son left. I can't lose him too," Kamala said.

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'First Breakthrough Reached'

Currently, attempts are being made on five different fronts to rescue the 41 workers who have been trapped in the collapsed Silkyara-Barkot tunnel in Uttarkashi since 12 November.

The rescuers on Monday were able to push a six-inch-wide pipeline through the rubble of the collapsed tunnel so that they could send larger quantities of food and other essentials to the trapped labourers.

Calling it the "first breakthrough," National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) Director Anshu Manish Khalkho said, "We've been able to establish a lifeline pipe of 6 inch, 25 meters of it is on the other end and people can listen to us and feel us."

Manjeet is one of the workers employed by NHIDCL.

"We spoke to him before Diwali and Bhai Dooj and has asked him to come, but he said that he wasn't paid yet and was upset that he won't be able to come. He had promised to try for a visit during Bhai Dooj," the distraught mother recalled.

Manjeet's grandfather also stated that apart from the media, only the village tehsildar had visited them.

"The last time we spoke to him, he was upset that he couldn't visit us on Diwali," says his mother.

The Silkyara tunnel in Uttarkashi.

(Photo: PTI)

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What Next?

"Our next task is that we will take out the drill from this pipe and then we'll establish contact again to ensure that there is no obstacle in between. Then we'll provide them with food and all the other medical requirements they need," Khalkho said.

He stated that the rescue teams were "working relentlessly and have not left any stone unturned." Colonel Deepak Patil also stated that now that the pipeline has been set up, they will be able to send food, mobile phones, etc, to the trapped men.

"The food and water are also being prepared accordingly, such as sending them apple pieces and porridge. Doctors will be consulted as to what kinds of food can be sent. Our priority is to send them food and get them to stock it first," he said.

Meanwhile, tunneling expert Arnold Dix said, "We are going to get those men out. Great work is being done here. Our whole team is here and we are going to find a solution and get them out. It is not just important that the trapped men are rescued, the men who are doing the rescuing should also be safe."

"The whole world is helping. The team here is fantastic. The plans are looking fantastic. The work is very systematic. The food and the medication are being provided properly," he was quoted as saying by ANI.

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PM Modi Takes Stock of Situation

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said that he spoke to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami over the phone to take stock of the rescue operations being carried out at the Silkyara tunnel.

Necessary rescue equipment and resources are reportedly being provided by the Centre.

The prime minister said it is necessary to maintain the morale of the trapped workers, according to a statement issued by the Uttarakhand Chief Minister's Office.

This is the third time that PM Modi has spoken to Dhami about the rescue operations being carried out at the Uttarkashi tunnel, as per PTI.

In his post on X, the Uttarakhand CM wrote that "the responsibility of taking care of the families of the workers has been given to the officials."

But families like that of Manjeet are desperately waiting for their loved ones to be rescued "I just want him to be safe and all these boys who are stuck there to come out soon," said Kamala.

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