statesman news service
KOLKATA, 27 JUNE: About 108 tourists and pilgrims from Bengal stranded in the flood-ravaged state of Uttarakhand flew back to the city today on a flight chartered by the West Bengal government, with praises on their lips for the Army, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and the media. 
According to the state transport minister, Mr Madan Mitra, around 40 more people from Bengal are still stranded at various places in Uttarakhand, while some 22 more are suspected to be missing. “We will soon send a team of 8 to 10 trackers to Uttarakhand to trace those people who are missing and stranded,” said Mr Mitra, who received the tourists and pilgrims at the N S C Bose International Airport in the city.    
The chartered Air India flight that took off from Dehradun at 2.20 p.m. and landed at N S C Bose International Airport in Kolkata at 4.34 p.m.
The State statistics and programme implementation minister, Mr Rachpal Singh, who had gone to Uttarakhand to expedite the rescue operations, returned on the same flight. 
Among the 108-odd people who availed of the chartered flight today, there were around 35 women and eight children.
There were three people with minor injuries and the authorities had kept a medical team ready at the tarmac to attend to them. The state government also arranged buses to ferry those evacuees who hail from the districts, such as North 24-Parganas, Burdwan and Bankura, among others, but not everyone availed of the facility. 
Mr Soumen Chatterjee of Jodhpur Park, who returned on the chartered flight, said: “We shall remain indebted all our life to the Army, the ITBP and the media; we wouldn’t have survived but for their efforts. Politicians and government machineries became active only after the media prodded them through an
extensive coverage of the devastation in Uttarakhand," he said. 
Mr Chatterjee, who was stranded for about 11 days ~ first at Gangotri and then at Chinyalsaur ~ added: "We did not hear a word from our state government until we arrived at Dehradun on an Army chopper yesterday.
“But once we reached Dehradun, West Bengal government representatives extended every possible help and today they arranged the chartered flight, for which we are thankful to them.” 
Mr Debasish Sharma Sarkar, who was stranded with his wife and child, also praised the Army and the media.
“I will never forget the hardship that the Army people undertook for us, and the media persons, who have been working relentlessly to bring to light the plight of the people in Uttarakhand," he said.