The Uttarakhand High Court has directed the state government and central agencies to respond within 48 hours regarding the ongoing rescue operation for 41 workers trapped inside a partially collapsed tunnel in Uttarkashi. The court's direction came in response to a PIL filed by the Dehradun-based NGO Samadhan, which expressed concern about the government's inability to rescue the workers since November 12, as reported by PTI.
The division bench, comprising acting Chief Justice Manoj Kumari Tiwari and Justice Pankaj Purohit, also issued notices to the disaster management secretary, public works department, central government, and National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation. The next hearing is scheduled for November 22.
The NGO, in its PIL, alleged that the government and the executive body are risking the lives of those trapped in the tunnel, criticizing the unsuccessful rescue attempts. The plea called for a criminal case to be registered and investigated by a Special Investigation Team (SIT). It also highlighted the lack of proper geological investigation before the tunnel's construction and emphasized the need for necessary rescue items during such projects.
Leader of Opposition in the Uttarakhand Assembly, Yashpal Arya, questioned the absence of an exit tunnel at the Silkyara project site and called for a CBI probe into the incident's factors. Arya raised concerns about the project being handed over to an inexperienced contractor and suggested investigating potential corruption in its implementation. He pointed out the removal of hume pipes a few days before Diwali, stating that their presence could have facilitated the evacuation of trapped workers.
Arya emphasized his support for rescuers and engineers on-site, clarifying his intent not to politicize the issue. He criticized the handling of the incident, exposing flaws in the country's disaster management mechanism, and called for a CBI probe monitored by the Chief Justice of the High Court into the project's implementation.
Breakthrough in Supply Pipeline Elevates Hopes for 41 Trapped Workers in Uttarakhand Tunnel
In a crucial development, rescue teams successfully navigated a six-inch-wide pipeline through the debris of the collapsed Silkyara tunnel, signaling a significant advancement in the ongoing mission to rescue 41 workers trapped for eight days. Anshu Manish Khalkho, the director of the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), referred to this accomplishment as the "first breakthrough."
The extended pipeline, now reaching 53 meters beyond the rubble, establishes a direct line of communication with the trapped workers. Col Deepak Patil, a colleague of Khalkho, acknowledged this achievement as a vital milestone but stressed that the more critical step lies ahead—ensuring the safe and intact extraction of the workers.
To explore potential escape routes, drones and robots from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have been deployed at the disaster site. While horizontal boring faced a temporary halt due to a boulder obstruction, it is scheduled to resume in the evening, according to an official statement.
Concurrently, construction has commenced on an 80-meter deep vertical rescue shaft from near the hilltop. The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is mobilizing additional equipment, and drilling has initiated from the Barkot-end of the tunnel.
International tunnelling expert Arnold Dix, leading the Geneva-based International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association, has joined the onsite efforts to assess and provide expertise.