Army Confronted The Deluge
When government washed away in floods
Special report by Jitendra Tiwari from Uttarakhand
The Army jawans busy in rescuing and saving thousands of people caught in the unimaginable natural disaster; the state government rejecting the flow of helping hands extended by the nationalist forces from all over the country and thereby adding to the woes of those stranded pilgrims; the lazy and helpless administration trying to hide its failures by projecting wrong figures of those stranded at difficult and inaccessible places and the number of dead; persons sitting under the open sky waiting for their turn to be rescued; the hapless humanity from 85-year-old to infants clung to the breasts of their mothers…this is the naked truth of what was known a few days ago as Devbhoomi-the land of Gods. Thirteen days after the disaster and devastation following heavy rains and cloud burst of 15-16 June, the situation in Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri has not changed much. Thousands are still waiting to be evacuated in these places, the biggest ever rescue campaign in the history carried by the Indian Air Force notwithstanding.
Whosoever met in the journey from Dehradun to Badrinath expressed his angst and agony in just one sentence: “Why so much of mismanagement, insensitivity in this Char Dham yatra that earns revenue to Uttarakhand government, and employment to the local people? Because this is a Hindu shrine and the pilgrims are Hindus?
Even after a week the Himalayan tsunami striking this religious shrine, on June 24 hundreds of people in search of their near and dear ones gathered at Sahasradhara helipad. But nature was also very unpleasant; following heavy rains no helicopter could land or flew, disheartening and stalling all the hopes of these people. Above all the Met Department issued warning of heavy rains rubbing salt on their wounds. Minutes before the dusk, a helicopter landed from Harshil near Gangotri and one 80-year-old Anjani Nandan stepped down, his son Sanjay told that the weather is very cold and it was raining there, and still 2500-3000 people were stranded there. People thronged Sanjay to know the whereabouts of their relatives. There is no way of establishing any contact, neither any approachable road; people are stranded at a place which was thousands of km away from their places and at the height of some thousand feet braving the freezing winds and heavy rains. Pintu Daga just could not hold himself together and broke down in tears. A resident of Dhamtari in Chhattisgarh, Pintu’s mother and sister-in-law and nephews of 7 to 9 years had come to this pilgrimage. The Chhattisgarh Government had sent a helicopter to bring them back. But when a pilot accustomed to fly in hilly terrain landed there brought four youths from Gondia, Maharashtra, and left one at Harshil for identification of the relatives.
When asked about this mismanagement Sitaiyah, organiser of Sahasradhara Helipad said they had received one such complaint and now they have put some restrictions on private helicopter operators. He said Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand state governments have dispatched their helicopters for airlifting the stranded pilgrims. “We just give them NOC for flying. But they are engaging themselves in relief and rescue operation with the cooperation from ITBP. We are trying to reach the relief material to Harshil, Matali, Guptakashi, Dharasu, Gochar, Rudraprayag, Joshimath, and Badrinath.” To know the ground realty, Sitaiyah offered me a lift in a helicopter to Harshil. But the pilot was more acquainted with the ground reality there and said, “even if I take you there I would not bring you back. Because for me it is necessary to bring back the sick and children, not you. You can come back on foot by trekking the distance in 5-6 days. Secondly, there the people need more food supplies so instead of taking you there I would take a quintal load of food material on priority.” His words disappointed me but they nevertheless gave me the feel of the ground reality and agony of the stranded people. Next morning it was raining dashing all my hopes to reach anywhere by a chopper. Then I took a motorcycle, put on the raincoat and accompanied by a swayamsevak decided to reach Guptkashi by road. But finally God listened to my prayers and opened the way for me to reach Badrinath by a small helicopter.
We reached Badrinath traversing the sky-kissing mountains and clouds in one hour and ten minutes, a place sometime ago seemed un-approachable. The scenes of destruction and devastation were visible below the hills in the river valleys and the moment we landed at the make-shift helipad, the people sitting there thronged the chopper. The ITBP jawans controlled them with much difficulty and only 5-6 amongst those unfortunate hundreds could get a seat in that chopper. Rest were again left to fend themselves in that drizzle and cold helpless and hapless too. Whether Shekhar Shukla of Raebareili or Monali Darne of Nagpur or Priya Mittal of Indore. Each one of them and those accompanying them had faced the same difficulty, same story to tell. The only option left to them was to wait for the choppers as roads have been washed away. They come here daily at 5 am and wait till 7 pm to be evacuated. They are to rely on a packet of biscuits and a bottle of water. 73-year-old Sheel Kumar Jain of Indore could not sit because of the rod and knee pain while US Agrawal could not stand for longer time due to pain in the back. But they had not given up yet. They haven’t dreamt of this situation in their wildest dreams.
The difficulties faced by Pratik Gupta of Vishwas Nagar, Delhi were still serious. His only son Yash is mentally retarded, underdeveloped and physically disabled. Their number for the chopper trip is 588 that mean they have to wait for another week to be rescued. Their difficulties do not end there. Even if they are airlifted up to Joshimath from Badrinath, how would they resume their onward journey with a disabled son? “We are dying here and the ministers and leaders are telling wrong figures to nation on the television channels. Are they not ashamed of the act?”
“They say in TV that only 250 plus people are stranded in Badrinath. My token number if 700 and there are 8-10 people on one token. You can judge for yourself. There are 8000 plus people stranded here and they are telling the number of 250. Don’t these politicians see the difficulties of Hindus? If anything happens in Mecca, they will send special planes and here when Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi offered to send 20 helicopters for rescuing stranded people, the Uttarakhand Government refused to take the help. How will they control the situation? When the weather was favorable they did not make sufficient efforts to rescue us and now we are here left to fend for ourselves in this raw, unfriendly and inhospitable weather. We condemn such politicians and their dirty politics.
It is well nigh difficult for the common people to cross that difficult terrain with the help of rope and pullies which the ITBP and Army jawans could achieve with much practice. These people have travelled either by bus, train or an airplane. For them this was no less an ordeal. When some people were tired of waiting for helicopters, they opted to go by road and were compelled to reach Pandukeshwar via Hanumanchatti by crossing the road with the help of ropes and chain pullies, and of course the brave jawans. From Pandukeshwar the road was somewhat better that could take them to Joshimath. After 10 days the ITBP jawans could make a improvised road by joining three bamboo ladders with tight ropes. But crossing that portion with 120 ft length was not an easy task at all. But that was the only way for them to save themselves and of course the ITBP jawans and Lord Kedarnath and Badrinath to their rescue.
Everywhere you meet people surrounded with untold difficulties bereft of any help and caught in the gross mismanagement. The tall claims made by the government notwithstanding, the affected people are not getting any relief neither there was any effective system of distribution of whatever relief material could be reached there. The 120 KW hydro power generation unit began production after a gap of four days, it could light just a few lights and mobiles of some people could be charged connecting them with rest of the country. But the situation as of now is that the communication network is out of order because of the lack of diesel.
The pilgrims and tourists have been evacuated but what about the local residents? So long as the pilgrims are there the media, jawans and helicopters would remain there. After that who will look after the local residents? Sandip Bhatt, who put up a shop near the river says: “Who will care for us. Is there anything called Government? We come here in the summer to serve the pilgrims and to earn some livelihood. But our house was swept away by the flooding waters and there is no road to go and see the condition there. Who will save us? We are left at the mercy of this Badri Vishal”.
p Relief camps set up at Guptakashi, Tilwara, Chandrapuri, Harsil, Uttarkashi, Joshimath, Karnaprayag, Peepalkot, Rishikesh, Haridwar and Chamba
p Everyday 12,000 people were fed in the camps, and by June 28, over 980000 people had been served meals
p Medicines worth Rs 10 lakh, and foodgrains worth Rs over one crore distributed, 58 truckload of relief material dispatched to different locations from Dehradun control room
p Over 500 workers engaged in the relief operation all over the state
p On June 28, RSS Sahsarkaryavah Dr Krishna Gopal visited Dehradun to take stock of the relief situation
p In first phase, the stranded persons were rescued and provided meals
p In second phase, the work has already began to first search the affected local people, as about 32 villages have totally washed away. Rehabilitation of these people and also reconstruction of their villages has begun. In some villages where the local people fed their entire ration to the stranded people, will be provide sufficient foodgrains
p Since the local khhacharwala, taxi owners, pujaris, palakiwalas, dhabha owners, etc also washed away in the floods, their family members will be helped
Total Deaths: Official figure 560, unofficial about 20,000
Evacuated: Above 1,05,000 (Air evacuated: Over 14,000, Evacuated by foot: Over 85,000)
Stranded: About 2000
Still Missing: 3000
Damage: Estimated loss Rs 5000 crore, Houses 2232, Roads 1520, Bridges 154
Roads cleared: By June 27, major roads cleared except Joshimath-Badrinath, Rudraprayag-Gaurikund and Uttarkashi-Gangotri
Choppers in use: 60
Army personnel joined: 10,000
Relief Material and
equipments dropped: 2,16,310 kg
The unambiguous heroes of Uttarakhand
When the politicians in Delhi and Dehradun were busy in their blame-game or claiming false credit for the rescue, the Army jawans were carrying out the Herculean task of rescuing more than one lakh stranded pilgrims from Kedarnath and other remote areas. Army jawans are the unambiguous heroes of the whole rescue operation. They worked round the clock and against all odds to do their duty. Without bowing down to the bad weather or the heart-rending incidents of losing their own co-rescuers in the helicopter crash of June 25 the Defence personnel rather intensified the rescue operation. A total of 20 jawans including five from IAF, nine from National Disaster Relief Force and six from ITBP died in the crash.
For Army the rescue operation was not a mere job that was assigned to them by their seniors or the Government, they took it as a duty and mission to serve their fellow countrymen. There are incidences where in case of scarcity of food the Army people decided to reduce their meals to feed the large numbers of pilgrims.
The Indian Air Force offered a moving tribute to the brave jawans: “You all have done us proud, for you gave your life in service of your countrymen without discretion of colour, cast, creed and religion – more importantly, in their hour of need. You are now a guiding beacon in our deeds. Your selfless sacrifice in Operation Rahat is monumental and just remembering it would be more than any pilgrimage to us,’’ said a statement issued by the IAF. With 60 helicopters in service, the mission to rescue thousands of people stranded in the flash floods in Uttarakhand was the Air Force’s largest effort of this nature.
‘Salute to Armed Forces Diwas’ by ABVP on July 1
In order to recognise and applause the valour of the Indian armed forces, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) is going to organised countrywide Salute to Armed Forces Diwas on July 1. Prior to it, such programmes were organised in all the colleges and universities of the country beginning from June 28. ABVP national general secretary said this event will energise the youth of the nation and they would prefer to join the army in coming days. In Delhi, the ABVP organised a function at Delhi University on June 28. The ABVP also appealed to the people to organise similar function at all prominent crossings, martyrs memorials, etc.
Massive relief operation by swayamsevaks
Swayamsevaks first to land in Kedarnath, prepared helipad for army helicopters
When local administration was found missing, the swayamsevaks provided vital information to army and other rescue teams
After relief work, swayamsevaks start taking stock of damage so that rehabilitation work could begin in shortest period
The Army jawans and RSS workers worked shoulders to shoulders with each other to rescue the stranded people and also to help the local people. The swayamsevaks not only ensured full supply of ration and other required material to the victims they also provided vital information to the army jawans, as the local administration was missing for this job. Brigadier Kapur confirmed in Joshimath that the Sangh swayamsevaks supplied them vital information and most of their information was correct and useful.
The swayamsevaks displayed an extraordinary courage on June 18 when they joined the first army team landing in Kedarnath through helicopter. Two swayamsevaks, Bijon Bisht and Yogendra Rana, were first to land in Kedarnath valley through a rope to prepare a helipad for army helicopters. After that a team of 50 swayamsevaks worked there day and night for relief and rescue. In other areas also the swayamsevaks were first to reach with relief. They prepared helipads for the army helicopters. They not only saved the lives of people along with the army but also provided meals and medicines to the victims.
The Sangh had set up a base camp for relief material in Dehradun under the banner of Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti. The entire relief material collected from across the country through the swayamsevaks or the Sangh associated organisations workers was stored there and it was only from here that the material was sent to different areas of the state as per the local needs. Uttarakhand Prant Vyavastha Pramukh Shri Surendra Mittal and Mahanagar Karyavah Shri Anil Nanda were looking after the distribution work of relief material. Different teams of local swayamsevaks assisted them round the clock. Dispatching relief material too was an uphill task as all the trucks had been taken over by the state government. But the swayamsevaks did their work perfectly.
The biggest relief work was done in Maneri, Uttarkashi, where about 6000 people were fed everyday. It is a very prominent route for the pilgrims coming from Gangotri. Some people came after walking 50-80 kms. Around 10,000 people passed through it everyday. The swayamsevaks also ran many relief camps for the people on the traditional walking route of Gangotri. Relief camps were also set up in Dhanolti, Chamba, Tehri, Ghansali, Mayali, Vasukedar, Rudraprayag, Agastmuni, Badrinath, Guptkashi, Karnaprayag, Chamoli, Joshimath, Srinagar, etc. Many people were stranded at Sukhi village near Harsil. The swayamsevaks helped them reach Harsil so that they could be evacuated by helicopters.
The entire relief operation was looked after RSS Kshetra Pracharak Shri Shivprakash, Prant Prachar Pracharak Dr Harish and Prant Karyavah Shri Laxmikant Jaiswal. They ensured full supply of the material from wherever they received the call. Senior activists of Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Samiti Shri Prem Barakoti reached Maneri by walking many kilometres and managed the relief operation there.
Whole nation turns with relief
The response to the appeal made by the Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti, a wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was so tremendous that now the Samiti has appealed to the people not to send more material as majority of the victims have been evacuated. After taking stock of the actual damage the Samiti will now start rehabilitation work.
Following the appeal the relief was dispatched from majority of the states. There are reports of dispatching trucks with relief material from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, etc. In Karnataka the swayamsevaks collected help under the banner of ‘RSS Sanchalit Santrasta Parihaara Nidhi’. In Tamil Nadu, the swayamsevaks were on the forefront donating relief material. The workers of other RSS associated organisations like the ABVP, Vidya Bharati, Sewa Bharati, BMS, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, etc. also joined the relief operation. The ABVP workers had started the rescue work on June 15 itself when the disaster took place. The BMS also appealed to the people to help the victims.
Why Uttarakhand rejected Modi’s proposal to renovate Kedarnath Temple?
The scene in Kedarnath is still very terrible—dead bodies lying on every step. Hari Om Varma saw his four year old son breathing last in his lap and he had to leave him there wrapped in a quilt. Chandra Prabha Singh of Maharashtra kept the injured head of her husband on her lap the whole night, but still could not save his life. She had to leave his body in the secluded forest under a tree. Tearing a red piece of cloth from her petticoat, she tied it to the tree so that someone may notice the body and may mercifully perform the last rites.
How insensitive and negligent the Uttarakhand government can be is obvious by the fact that they could not put a net in Ganga to catch the dead-bodies, which are seen floating till Allahabad Sangam. What can we expect from this government? When they could not support those who remained alive till the end, how can they unearth the dead-bodies lying under the eight-ten feet debris of Kedarnath Mandir campus? Very likely, the government will make the path to temple on this debris only, without caring to remove it and recover the dead bodies, which must not be less than one thousand here, says Shubham Joshi of Indore, who is one of the few present in Gaurikund, that had escaped death.
Shubham Joshi says that 15,000 pilgrims are allowed in a day at Kedarnath Temple, and it was Saturday, which is considered the busiest day in the temple. Therefore, not less than 15,000 people were present in and around Kedarnath Temple and Rambada. The next day, on returning, the same number could be seen at Sonprayag and Gaurikund. Similarly, those going towards Kedarnath Temple and waiting at Guptkashi and Tilwarda must have been in the same number. There was no room available in any hotel or guest house of the area, says Joshi, adding that “Suddenly I heard the voices calling ‘Bhago Bhago’ and I could not guess as to what was going to happen. And what I saw just in front of my eyes was simply unbelievable. I have not seen this ever even in a film. I could see people being washed away in the muddy water running downwards. I can just guess that not less than 15000 people had thus lost their lives.”
The Uttarakhand government does not want people to know the truth of this calamity and its aftermath that is why it does not want to allow independent agencies and other governments to undertake rescue operations. For obvious reasons, the Uttarakhand government has rejected the proposal of Narendra Modi to rebuild and renovate the Kedarnath Temple.
Describing his experiences during rescue operations, Shubham Joshi says no one present on the sight of Badrinath can ever forget the courage, efforts and sacrifice of Captain Arvind Pandey (who did not reveal his identity easily) who was ferrying the victims to safe places through a private helicopter UT Air, which was the only (private) helicopter moving from Badrinath to Joshimath and vice-verca. No other pilot was there to accompany or support him. He was doing the job so sincerely and skillfully as if he was doing it for his own family members. He would take only 30 minutes between Badrinath and Joshimath. And he took maximum number of rounds. Everyone blessed him earnestly.
Playing with nature pays back—Dr Nityananda
Dr Nityananda (88) is among the swayamsevaks who have devoted their entire life at the altar of the Motherland and in the service of the Himalayas. After 1990 earthquake in Uttarkashi, the Keshav Ashram at Maneri became his centre of service activities from where he managed and looked after the relief and rehabilitation work. He was the driving force behind the formation of ‘Uttaranchal Daivi Apada Peedit Sahayata Samiti’ which started the relief and rescue operations in this disaster. The two hostel buildings at Maneri Sewa Ashram were swept away. Now he has shifted to Dehradun where is being looked after. Most disturbed and unhappy over the present state of devastation he says; “All will suffer. The entire humanity will suffer the consequences of playing with the nature. If we won’t allow rivers to live, they will certainly reciprocate. Why don’t we learn from our elders, who never constructed houses along the river banks. They always preferred places that were away from the streams, on the slopes or at a height. Now the roads go along the banks of the rivers, and with them come the hotels, dharmashalas, and pucca houses. Above all the levels of the rivers are allowed to rise by filling stones and sand. In such a situation whenever there is heavy rainfall or cloudburst, where that water will go?
“We must understand one thing very clearly that nature is governed by its own rules. It does not go by the regulations and laws of the humans. Nature changes, on its own. Even mountains are not immortal, their positions also change. What today is known as Aravali range, was not the same thousands of years ago. Himalayas is bound to witness the natural changes. But we humans have done something that increased the speed of the changes. We make tunnels for hydro power by using dynamites but forget that by the explosions caused by these dynamites, we are weakening the mountains also. The frequent landslides are resulting out of these explosions.
“It is true that in the early period the civilisations developed along the river banks but in course of time they were drowned in the same rivers. This is nature. The river valley civilisations were buried. The hills and mountains are governed by the rules of nature. Humanity should allow them to follow their own rules, otherwise, their wrath will shower on us as we are experiencing today.”
Refreshing the memories
When VHP Patron Shri Ashok Singhal visited the relief camps run by swayamsevaks, he went to enquire about the wellbeing of Dr Nityananda. Those were historic and touching moments. They began their talks with the natural devastation caused in the Kedarnath region and the human sufferings caused by this nature’s fury. Dr Nityanand told him that the devastation was the result of the cloudburst at the glacier and the lake situated above the Kedarnath temple. Then followed their exchanges of mutual well-being. The 88-year-old Dr Nityanand was telling 86-year-old Ashok Singhal how he relished his songs; and the latter saying ‘your voice has the same old sharpness’. How is your health now? Who initiated you in to the RSS, Mogheji or Rajju Bhaiya? Then they refreshed their memories of Allahabad. When Ashok Singhal touched his feet to take his leave, Dr Nityanand tried to stop him saying “are ye kya kar rahe hain aap?’
Appeal by Sewa International Bharat
Sewa International, which has been at the forefront of relief and rehabilitation during the natural calamities and man-made calamities in many countries like Bharat, USA, Guyana, UK, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and some more, for more than two decades, appealed to all the benevolent to extend their hand for providing succor to the floods—affected people in Uttarakhand. Any relief can be sent at the following address:
49, Deendayal Upadhyaya Marg, New Delhi-110 002, India
Tel: +91 11 23232850, +91 11 43007650 or 23684445 Email: [email protected]
Account details for Foreign Donations:
Account No.- 10080533326, Jhandewala Extn Branch (Delhi), State Bank of India, Branch Code- 9371, Swift Code- SBININBB550 , IFS Code – SBIN0009371
Account details for Inland Donations:
Account No. 10080533304, Jhandewala Extn Branch (Delhi)
State Bank of India, Branch Code – 9371
Swift Code- SBININBB550, IFS Code – SBIN0009371
A Humble Request
Since the primary relief operation is almost over, in the changed circumstances the Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti has humbly requested the people not to send further food items. According to Shri Lakshmiprasad Jaiswal, Uttarakhand Prant Karyavah of RSS, after the first phase of relief operation the second phase of permanently rehabilitating the displaced victims has begun. Therefore only monetary help is needed. All donations made to the Samiti are exempted under section 80G of the Income-tax Act and it is registered under the FCRA.
Bank Account Details: A/C Name: Uttaranchal Daivi Aapda Peedit Sahayata Samiti
Bank Name and Branch: State Bank of India, Main Branch, Dehradun
A/c No.: 31156574681 IFS CODE: SBIN0000630
The gross incompetence displayed on the part of Congress led Uttarakhand and Central governments disappointed the entire nation. People were crying for help but most of the time the Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna remained outside the State capital. On June 16-17 night also he was not in Dehradun when the calamity hit Kedarnath, Gangotri, Govind Ghat, Pithoragarh, Dharchula and Munshiyari, etc. In course of events, he committed a number of gross mistakes which further irritated the people. Due to his continued absence and causal attitude towards the terrible calamity, the State bureaucracy also remained lax, aggravating the situation.
In the Cabinet meeting Bahuguna didn't took Kedarnath disaster seriously because he had no information about the cloudburst and flash flood’s terrible enormity. Thereafter, no Cabinet meeting was called for rescue and relief works for several days altogether after the disaster. Bahuguna also did not send his ministers to the affected areas to take stock of the situation, so that the rescue and relief works could be undertaken properly or intensified. Surprisingly, on June 17 the Central Government had specific information about Kedarnath disaster, while on that day Bahuguna sent a misleading report to New Delhi about torrential rain in Kedarnath, while conveniently overlooking to mention the terrible disaster which had swept away thousands of pilgrims. Then, a red-faced Central Government and the Central Congress Party leadership took reins of the disaster management in their own hands.
Only after June 19 aerial survey by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi the directions were issued to Army and Air Force to accelerate the pace of rescue work. The Indo-Tibetan Boarder Police (ITBP), Border Road Organisation (BRO) and National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were also involved in the operation. After the aerial survey on June 19, Vijay Bahuguna also joined the PM and chose to stay in Delhi for the whole night in a total disregard to the affected people’s deep agony and plight. Bahuguna’s devil-may-care behaviour gave frayed tempers to many senior ministers and Congressmen in Dehradun who made complaints to the Central Congress Party leadership.
While the Central agencies were working at the fullest pace, State Government floundered on various fronts. Besides being incompetent, the State ministers and officials were also work-shirkers; there was no coordination among the State and Central agencies, sometimes they came at loggerheads. As a result, the rescue and relief works were suffering. Then the All India Congress Committee (AICC) treasurer Motilal Vora was rushed to Dehradun to monitor the rescue operation, the work in which Vijay Bahuguna had miserably failed. Former Union Home Secretary VK Duggal was also sent as nodal officer to oversee the rescue operation. Duggal worked overtime to ensure coordination among the Central and State agencies.
Thus, had Vijay Bahuguna been left to himself, he would have floundered at every step. There exists a deep distrust between Bahuguna and his Cabinet colleagues and party MLAs; that is why he was sending everywhere his son Saket Bahuguna, who has become a symbol of extra-constitutional authority in the State. But, the Central Government officials simply ignored him.
Now, fight over who will cremate the dead bodies
Accusations are flying thick from each side that the Uttarakhand Government had been deliberately hiding true figures of the persons killed in the disaster. They insist only on figure of 1,000, while more than 2,000 inhabitants of 80 villages situated near the holy Kedarnath township have disappeared. The complaints are pouring in from all states in India and even outside about the missing individuals and groups. Ukhimath Assistant District Magistrate Rakesh Tiwari and Dy SP Rameshwar Dimri confirm that more than 2,000 local inhabitants are missing from Kedarnath town, Rambara and Gaurikund—and source claim 500 others are missing from other flood –affected areas like Govind Ghat, Pithoragarth, Dharchula and Munshiyari etc.
Bahuguna’s Cabinet colleague and Disaster Management Minister Yashpal Arya has admitted that at least 5,000 persons might have been killed in the natural calamity, whereas the local newspapers, shopkeepers, village-heads and social leaders put the figure at more than 10,000. A former Bihar Health Minister and a senior BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Chaubey who had been on pilgrimage to Kedarnath Shrine when the disaster struck and who also lost three close relatives in the flash flood, puts the total death toll around 15,000.
What to say of discrepancy and State government’s shenanigans, on June 25 both Centre and State Governments filed separate affidavits on status reports in the Supreme Court in connection with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), giving altogether different figures of their rescue and relief works. As a last piece of shirking responsibility, the State authorities are demanding that the Central agencies like ITBP, Army, Air Force and NDRF should also carry out cremation of the dead at Kedarnath and Gaurikund, while the Central agencies say that the State should call in services of Home Guards and sanitation staff for the work. The Central agencies were concerned merely with saving lives from impending threat of more cloudbursts and flash floods in the hour of urgency, and providing relief, while the rest is the State Government’s responsibility.
Where was Congress yuvaraj for one week?
Trucks flagged off by Sonia and Rahul returned Delhi as no one received them in Uttarakhand
When the entire nation was worried over the safety of stranded pilgrims in Uttarakhand and was contributing as per one bit, the Congress yuvaraj Rahul Gandhi was found missing for many days. Where was he, nobody knows. There are reports that he was celebrating his birthday abroad. When the stunned youth of the nation questioned his absence on social sites he was hurriedly called back and was moved into Uttarakhand for few minutes, just to click some pictures of his. When he was in Uttarakhand the entire machinery was following him, naturally disturbing the entire relief and rescue operation. When the Opposition questioned it, they were told that now everything is normal in Uttarakhand. When people asked if everything is normal why so many relief and rescue teams are there and what is Rahul doing there—came the statement of Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde that the ban on the movement of ordinary people in those areas was only for initial three-four days since the VIPs were there. It is not now.
Such an attitude of the Congress on relief and rescue operation was highly condemned. Such gimmicks also made the relief operation a mockery.
On June 24 a big show was organised in New Delhi when Rahul Gandhi flagged off the trucks carrying relief material. But what shocked the people is that fact that those trucks stranded in Delhi itself for about eight hours even after the flag off ceremony. More shameful was the fact that some of the trucks returned after reaching Dehradun and Rishikesh, because the truck drivers did not get money for fuel. Another reason for these 42 trucks to return was that there was none to guide them beyond Haridwar and Rishikesh. There was no official to receive the relief material. More than 200 trucks loaded with food and relief material were seen stranded in Rishikesh for want of route information.
– With inputs Dr Shakti Kumar Pandey