Uttarkashi, Nov 16 (PTI) Many local people believe the collapse of a tunnel in Uttarakhand was due to the wrath of Baba Boukhnag - a local deity whose temple was demolished for its construction.
A portion of the under-construction tunnel, part of the ambitious Char Dham all-weather road project, collapsed due to a landslide on Sunday, trapping 40 workers, a few days after the construction company demolished the temple.
After initial efforts to rescue the trapped workers failed, temple priest Ganesh Prasad Bijalwan said, company officials called him on Wednesday, apologised and requested him to perform a special puja.
He performed the puja and prayed for the success of the operation to rescue the workers.
According to many locals, the construction firm earned the wrath of the deity by demolishing the temple close to the mouth of the tunnel in Silkyara village in Uttarkashi district.
Boukhnag deity is considered the protector of the area.
"Before the project started, a small temple was built near the mouth of the tunnel and out of respect for local beliefs, officials and labourers used to enter the tunnel only after offering prayers. However, a few days ago the construction company management removed the temple from there and people believe that due to this, the accident happened," Dhanveer Chand Ramola (40), a resident of Silkyara village, told PTI.
"We had asked the construction company not to demolish the temple and if they had to do so, to build another temple nearby. But the company rejected our suggestion saying it was our superstition and see what happened," another villager, Rakesh Nautiyal, said. Earlier too, in the initial stage of the project, a part of the tunnel had caved in but not a single worker got trapped nor was there any other kind of loss because the temple still stood there, he said.
The priest said, "Uttarakhand is the land of gods. There is a tradition of building a small temple for the local deity before building any bridge, road or tunnel. The work is completed only after taking their blessings." He said he also believes that the construction company made a mistake by demolishing the temple and that is why the accident occurred endangering the lives of 40 workers.
In a fresh attempt to create an escape passage for 40 workers trapped inside for four days, a heavy-duty drilling machine flown in by the IAF from Delhi began boring through the rubble of the collapsed tunnel Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Dehradun, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said, "I have been told that the new drilling machine has already penetrated 5-7 metres through the debris. We hope it would soon reach the trapped workers, drilling at the rate of 5-10 metres every hour." PTI COR ALM SMN