The 41 workers, who were rescued from Uttarakhand's Silkyara tunnel in a multi-agency operation, kept their spirits up while trapped inside by taking morning walks and practising yoga, a rescued worker told Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The workers hailed Prime Minister Modi, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami and rescue teams for their efforts, with one of them saying they had nothing to worry as when the government could saved Indians abroad, they were within the country.
In his telephonic conversation with the rescued workers late Tuesday night, Modi told them, “I congratulate you on coming out safely after being in danger for so many days. It is a matter of happiness for me and I cannot express it in words. If something bad had happened, can't say how we would have taken that. It is God's grace that all of you are safe."
“Seventeen days is not a short time. You all showed a lot of courage and encouraged each other,” Modi told the workers, according to a video of the conversation released by the Prime Minister's Office.
Modi said he used to keep tabs about the operation and was in constant touch with the chief minister. “My PMO officials also were sitting there. But worry is not lessened by just getting information,“ the PM said.
A worker from Bihar, Saba Ahmed told the prime minister that though they were stuck in the tunnel for days, they did not feel any fear or nervousness. “We were like brothers, we were together. We used to take a stroll in the tunnel after dinner. I used to tell them to do morning walks and yoga. We would like to thank the Uttarakhand government, especially the CM, VK (Singh) sahib,” Ahmed said.
Modi also lauded Minister of State of Road Transport and Highways of India Gen (retd) V K Singh, saying he showed his training of a soldier.
The workers used to take morning walks in an over 2 km stretch of the tunnel they were trapped in and also practised yoga, Ahmed told the PM.
Another worker Gabbar Singh Negi from Uttarakhand thanked the PM and CM Dhami, the company he works for, the Central government and rescue teams that worked day and night on the rescue operation.
“When we have you as the PM and people were saved from other countries, we were in our country and therefore we had nothing to worry about,” Negi told PM Modi.
Modi said he wanted their medical check-up to be done first before speaking with them and the doctors had told him that all the workers were in good health and fit.
He also told them that the chief minister will make arrangements for them on their onward journey back to their homes.
Modi also lauded the leadership and courage of the two workers.
While hailing the patience of the family members of the trapped workers, the prime minister asserted that 140 crore Indians were worried about the safety of the workers.
Another worker, Akhilesh Kumar from Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur, hailed CM Dhami, saying he spoke with the workers constantly.
He said he was happy to know that so many people outside felt relieved and elated at their rescue.
Sonu Sah from Bihar's Chapra also thanked the PM and the rescue teams.
The prime minister extended his best wishes to the rescued workers for their future endeavours. The conversation concluded with the rescued workers chanting 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and the prime minister saying the country will be inspired hearing their slogans.
Rescue workers on Tuesday night pulled out all 41 workers trapped in the tunnel in a multi-agency rescue operation that hovered between hope and despair for almost 17 days.
Instead of being brought out on wheeled stretchers through a steel tube that lined the 60-metre rescue shaft, the labourers crawled out of it, according to Dhami.
He and Union minister Singh welcomed the workers as the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) men helped them in getting out safely.
An ambulance with the first of the 41 workers left the mouth of the tunnel around 8 pm, about an hour after rat-hole mining experts dug through the last stretch of rubble.
There was hugging and cheers as the ordeal ended. Some local villagers burst crackers. Outside the tunnel, some chanted 'Har Har Mahadev', 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', and slogans in praise of Prime Minister Modi and Dhami.
A portion of the under-construction tunnel on Uttarakhand's Char Dham route collapsed on November 12, blocking the exit of the workers who were inside.
Food, medicines and other essentials were sent to them through a six-inch pipe pushed through the debris.
Relief was felt far and wide over the safe evacuation.
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