Pune: Not withstanding torrential rains or the acrid smell of decomposing bodies that are being removed from under the debris left behind by the landslide that occurred at Malin village last Wednesday, a group of 35 youngsters are ensuring dignity for those who lost their lives in this natural disaster.
Members of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA), a pan-India organisation of young men and boys, haven’t left the site since their arrival, and are helping government officials to ensure proper cremation for the dead at the small crematorium on the riverbank adjoining the village.
“A couple of hours after the landslide, we learnt of the disaster through messages and that’s how we all reached the site. I reached here the morning after the incident and have been here since then,” said Daji Lande, one of the group members and a resident of Taleran village in Junnar.
He added that while a lot of volunteers from Pune, Mumbai, Nasik and Ahmednagar had arrived, helped and gone back, the core group of 35 members has remained unchanged. Sharing his experience on performing the last rites of complete strangers, another group member, Kisan Utale, said, “All those who lost their lives were part of our society. This prevented us from hesitating while shifting the deceased. Moreover, we are trained in handling such difficult situations after joining the organisation.”
The only regret these youngsters expressed was the lack of support from adjoining villages and relatives of the dead. Another member Shankar Gode added, “Forget locals, even the relatives of the deceased lacked courage in claiming and cremating the body. This is unfortunate. But we have decided; none of us will leave until the last of the deceased has been given a proper funeral.”
A government official present at the site said, “Despite having adequate manpower at the NDRF and the health department, the rough terrain and continuous downpour has made rescue operation difficult. We are really thankful to these bravehearts, who are shouldering the responsibility of performing the last rites.” Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is a pan-India organisation, with a special focus in tribal areas. In Pune district, it is active in Junnar, Ambegaon, Khed and Maval.