Uttarkashi Tunnel Collapse: After spending 17 days in an underground prison, the 41 labourers who were freed from the collapsed Uttarakhand tunnel late on Tuesday needed a strong leader to keep the men composed. This was a situation that would put most people to the test. Gabbar Singh Negi was a notable individual who was born in the Pauri Garhwal district, 260 km away. He had the unfortunate distinction of having been a part of three tunnel collapses.
Gabbar Negi’s Strategic Approach
Negi made sure the men remained both physically and mentally active during the more than 400 hours they were buried—nearly 200 feet below the surface—and demonstrated his commitment to their safety by telling them he would be the last to be rescued. His brother, Jaymal Singh Negi, told NDTV on Wednesday morning, “I am senior-most… I will be the last to come out… this is what he told me.” This was hours after all 41 men were removed and given thorough medical examinations to make sure they had not been injured.
Gabbar Negi’s Heroic Actions Ensure Safety for Trapped Workers
The fact that all 41 of them came out of the tragedy unscathed and beaming is largely attributable to Gabbar Negi’s efforts to contain a potentially disastrous situation. “I am very happy… the family is very happy. Not just the family but the whole country… the whole country prayed for them. When they came out and we saw they were safe, we distributed sweets and garlands,” Jaymal Negi, who has been at the tunnel collapse site for two weeks, told NDTV.
Communication Through Pipes and Phones Sustained Hope for Trapped Workers
“I kept talking to him daily. First through the pipes they put into the ground but then with phones that they gave us. I advised my brother to do yoga. He said, ‘yes, we are all doing it’.” Negi said. Jaymal Negi told NDTV about his brother’s bravery while grinning broadly. “He is very brave. When I asked him if there will be a stampede when the rescue starts, he told me, ‘I am senior, I will be last’. He told me they had made a list and that there will be order,” he added. And Jaymal Negi is not the only one who has praised his brother’s leadership abilities.
Chess Keep Spirits High Among Rescued Workers
Playing games like chess and ludo helped Negi keep the rescued workers happy and safe, according to several of the workers NDTV spoke with. Dr. Rohit Gondwal, a psychiatrist on the scene, told news agency PTI that the trapped workers were also acting as “chor police.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi also praised Negi’s bravery, telling the rescued workers over the phone last night, “It is a matter of happiness for me… I cannot express it in words. If something bad had happened… I can’t say how we would have taken that.”
Tunnel Collapse Shakes Nation Amid Festivities
Negi received praise for his bravery from the prime minister. Akhilesh Singh, a rescue worker, told NDTV that on November 12, while the rest of the nation was busy celebrating Diwali, the tunnel collapsed while he was on his way home. Tuesday night, all 41 men were safely extracted from the mine after “rat hole” miners—those who engage in a hazardous mining method outlawed by the government in 2014—achieved what sophisticated drilling equipment was unable to: they successfully broke through the last 10–12 metres of rock and rubble, freeing the labourers.