"We are living in a high-tech world. Why can't we use modern methods to locate the bodies?" asked a distraught Subba Rao. He is one of the several unfortunate parents who lost his ward to the waiting watery grave in Himachal Pradesh.
Subba Rao, a dam engineer himself, is aghast at the rescue operations relying on divers. This is a time-consuming and cumbersome process.
It is already four days since 24 frolicking, pic-taking engineering students from the state were washed away by the merciless Beas and the rescue operations are excruciatingly slow and the methods are inexorably archiac. No wonder, they have made little headway.
The rescue teams are using hooks and bamboo sticks to fish out the bodies. The teams move around in singles and two in dinghies and rafters. The under-water cameras arrived on Wednesday night, but are yet to be put to use. The navy is still to be requisitioned.
Why aren't expert divers and swimmers from Assam not being pressed into service? Assam after all shares similar geography and has a slew of snaking hill rivers. The swimmers have experience of fishing out the dead from the bottom of the water body.
Sure, there are some practical problems. The Largi project cannot retain water for longer periods of time as it could mean submergence of upstream villages. When in flow, the swirling waters are utterly incontrolable. The rocky terrain means big boats cannot be employed. Moreover, the locals, who fear and respect the hilly rivers, never venture into when the water is swollen.
The most difficult part is that the search area is heavily silted and is full of mud. There are dangerous whirlpools along the way. All these are making retrieval of bodies difficult.
For the hapless and tragedy-struck parents, however, the wait is endlessly agonising.