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Ajit Kumar Dubey
Ajit Kumar Dubey


Rescue, on cue

  • Friend in deed
    Friend in deed: Villagers in the Gorkha district receive relief material from the Indian Army | AFP
  • Relentless efforts
    Relentless efforts: India's National Disaster Response Force personnel look for survivors in Kathmandu | AFP

India helps Nepal get back on its feet after the devastating earthquake

  • "The C-17s arriving in Kathmandu were carrying their own machinery to unload items from the aircraft as the Nepalese authorities did not have the means to do that," - B.B. Pandey, defence ministry spokesman

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw once said: “If anyone tells you he is not afraid of death, he is either a liar or a Gorkha.” Whether on the battlefield or facing a devastating earthquake, the Gorkhas stand proud, maintaining their dignity.

Rain was pouring on the hills of Gorkha district when Dhruv, India's advanced light helicopter, landed in Barpak, a village that lost all its houses to the 7.9 magnitude earthquake. The pilots and the crew, however, were pleasantly surprised when they saw that, despite the deaths and food shortage, the villagers had not panicked.

“The best thing here is that people are disciplined and are allowing children, women and the injured to be evacuated first. There is no pushing and shoving generally seen in such situations,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ashish Dubey, an Indian pilot.

During the Uttarakhand and Kashmir flood relief operations in recent years, it was difficult to manage the crowds as everyone, especially the tourists, wanted to get into the helicopters, said a pilot who is a veteran of several relief operations. “The villagers, despite their losses, are helping us in reconstructing the village and in removing the rubble,” said Lieutenant Colonel N. Sankaran of the Army's Engineering Task Force. The National Disaster Response Force teams in Kathmandu and nearby towns were also helped by the local people.

The Nepal government has appreciated India's involvement, including the swift movement of troops, relief material and equipment. Whether in the cities of Kathmandu and Pokhara or the villages of Gorkha, people welcomed Indian forces and complimented the Indian government, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The earthquake had caught Nepal unawares. After a civil war between the government and the Maoists, and years of political instability, the administration and the army seemed lost in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Most district administration officials did not know whom to take orders from or who was in charge. They found it difficult to handle the relief material coming in from across the world.

On at least three occasions, Indian C-17 and C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, carrying huge loads of relief material and water, were forced to return to India as there was no space to land. At times, the airfield staff did not know how to unload the relief cargo. “The C-17s arriving in Kathmandu were carrying their own machinery to unload items from the aircraft as the Nepalese authorities did not have the means to do that,” defence ministry spokesman B.B. Pandey told THE WEEK at the Kathmandu airport.

The Nepalese officers on field seemed out of their depth. Often, the army could not provide correct coordinates to the Indian pilots. A Nepalese lieutenant colonel asked an Mi-17 V5 pilot to throw relief material from the air onto the mountain tops in the village of Larpak. Doing so would result in the material falling in the valleys and breaking, said the pilot. The Nepalese officer admitted he had no clue about these operations.

“The Indian officers understood the situation quickly and guided their Nepalese hosts on taking up the tail end of the relief distribution,” said an IAF officer.

Within seven days of the earthquake, the civil administration had completed most of the initial rescue work. “That was why the Nepal government asked the outside agencies to leave the scene,” said an officer in the Indian embassy in Kathmandu. “It was by no means a clear-off order.”

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