Psychiatric counselling, talking to kin daily: How workers trapped in Sikyara tunnel stay motivated

Amidst rescue delays due to drilling hurdles, 41 workers trapped in the tunnel in Uttarakhand for the last 15 days, communicate daily with doctors and kin using a mic

41 workers have been trapped at Sikyara tunnel in Uttarakhand for the last 15 days (Photo: National Herald archives)
41 workers have been trapped at Sikyara tunnel in Uttarakhand for the last 15 days (Photo: National Herald archives)
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PTI

"Don't be nervous, we're on it." That's what family members of Saba Ahmad, one of the 41 workers trapped at Sikyara tunnel for the last 15 days, keep telling whenever they communicate with him.

A mic has been sent to the workers, stuck in a 2-km built-up area beyond the rubble accumulated in the collapsed part, through a pipe which helps them talk to people outside.

As the rescue operation got delayed due to the hurdles in drilling, Saba Ahmad was counselled by doctors and psychiatrists to keep him motivated, his brother Naiiyar Ahmad told PTI.

A team of doctors, stationed at the rescue operation site, talk to the trapped workers twice a day -- from 9 am to 11 am and 5 pm to 8 pm.

Also, family members of the trapped workers are allowed to talk to them anytime they like. The administration has set up a camp for the kin of the workers outside the tunnel.

Naiiyar, who is staying in a room provided by the construction company, near the camp said he talks to his brother twice daily and also makes sure that Saba's wife and three children, who are in Bihar's Bhojpur, talk to him.

"We keep motivating him. We never talk about the difficulties and hurdles but tell them that they will come out soon. The workers are doing fine as they get almost every essential item inside," Naiyyar said.

It has been 15 days since the 41 workers were trapped inside the tunnel after a portion of it collapsed on November 12. The rescue operation was started soon after the incident, but the work was delayed due to hurdles in drilling.

A team of five doctors, including two psychiatrists, have been stationed at the rescue site round the clock.

Dr Bimlesh Joshi, who is a nodal officer of the medical team at the site, said, "Apart from this, at least 10 more doctors remain on standby in Uttarkashi till the rescue operation is on." The psychiatrists and doctors are constantly in touch with the family members and keep counselling them as and when required so that they do not say something which can make any negative impact on the minds of the trapped workers, he said. Dr Prem Pokhriyal, another senior doctor with the medical team said, the trapped workers are being examined regularly.


"Initially, we gave them juices and energy drinks. But now they are getting proper meals. In the morning, we send boiled eggs, milk, tea and dalia and for lunch and dinner, they get dal, rice, chapati and subji. Disposable plates have been given to them," he said.

"To keep them hydrated, I told them to drink ORS power, which is already sent. Eye drops, vitamin tablets and other energy drinks have also been sent to them," Dr Pokhriyal said and added a lot of stock of dry fruits and biscuits have also been given.

An official said toothpaste, brushes, towels, clothes and undergarments, all are being provided to them. Mobile phones containing movies and video games were given to them, he said.

"I talk to them daily," Dr Pokhriyal said.

For sleep, fortunately, there were bundles of geotextile sheets, which were lying inside. They used them for sleep. The workers do yoga and exercise and walk in the tunnel in the morning and evening," he said.

The stretch where they are trapped is about two kilometres and the temperature is between 22 degrees Celsius to 24 degrees Celsius. "They do not require woollen clothes as of now," he said.

They have a round-the-clock electricity supply. When the rubble collapsed, the electricity supply which was set during the construction was not destroyed, as it was done through the walls, an official said. 

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