Bahuguna Out, Rawat In
Vijay Bahuguna has been ousted unceremoniously from Uttarakhand Chief Minister’s office on January 31 by the Congress on issue of failing to provide relief to the Kedarnath victims, and causing horrible plight to the homeless by forcing them to live in tents in the Himalaya’s snowy weather. Now, protests raised on the issue by the main opposition party in the Assembly BJP stand vindicated.
During his rule, Vijay Bahuguna’s name has become synonymous with callous apathy, lack of governance, ineptness and widespread corruption. On December 15 last, when BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Shri Narendra Modi raised prominently in his Dehradun rally, the issue of Kedarnath disaster victims’ plight, he struck a chord with the hapless people—being victims doubly, first by the nature’s fury, second by the Congress Government’s callous apathy. At the same time, Shri Modi’s speech gave violent shudders to Vijay Bahuguna-led Government in Uttarkhand, and the Congress Party leadership in New Delhi.
As Harish Rawat has replaced Vijay Bahuguna as the new CM, the state BJP has adopted the policy of wait and watch. If the new incumbent also fails to provide relief to the disaster victims in Kedarnath valley, and to undertake developmental works in the flood-ravaged area, he would also have to go like his predecessor, said former CM Shri Ramesh Pokheriyal Nishank. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Shri Ajay Bhatt said image of the State Government has been badly hit by Vijay Bahuguna’s corrupt practices; he had been mishandling the issue of Lokayukta also. Now the onus of finding a solution to the issue acceptable to all in the Assembly has shifted on Harish Rawat.
Earlier, disaster victims in Kedarnath valley, disgruntled with Vijay Bahuguna’s miserable failure in providing relief, had vowed to defeat the Congress Party in 2014 General Elections. Local people rendered homeless in the natural disaster are still crying hoarse for attention from the Government; because under the snowfall they had been living under tents, in poor schools buildings and tin shelters provided by the local administration, and had been surviving on meagre ration and other relief materials. Meanwhile, their children have been deprived of school education—thus, their entire current and future existence looks bleak.
The story is same for the districts of Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Tehri and Pithoragarh. Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar admits saying, “The losses incurred by the devastation are enormous. The total number of the people affected stands at several lakhs. A complete recovery of all the losses in all these districts would take years, and an investment of more than Rs 2,000 crore.” When the funds and relief materials were flowing in Uttarakhand from the entire nation, the state leadership and bureaucracy were found slow, inept, and for worse, corrupt. Then in disgust, all the sources of funds and relief materials from the entire nation dried up.
The homeless disaster-victims are still staying in tents at villages like Saemi in district Rudraprayag in a season of biting cold. The villagers do not know how to cope with life under the snowfall with no roof over their head. Sometimes, snowy blizzards uproot their tents and fly them away before they could catch it. No less than 187 roads washed away by the flood-water still await repairs by the Government which has rendered the villages in Kedar valley unapproachable. As a result, the villagers have to traverse long distances in difficult and dangerous terrains to obtain ration and other items of daily needs from Guptakashi and Ukhimath. According to sources, at least 895 local persons have perished in the June 16-17 floods in Kedarnath, Pithoragarh and in other districts of Uttarakhand, more than 4,000 persons are still missing, while most others were left crippled for rest of their lives. More than 1, 800 villages have been affected by the flash-flood, about 2,600 families rendered homeless, 150 bridges have been breached away by flood waters, and about 1, 700 km- long roads washed away causing a loss ranging from Rs 1, 500 to Rs 2, 000 crore. Hundreds of villages are still waiting to be connected with main roads in their regions. In this gloomy scene, Vijay Bahuguna and his cabinet colleagues remained stranded in political helplessness.
Amid this despondency, Kedarnath valley inhabitants have given an outcry to defeat Congress Party in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Shri Ajendra Singh, President of an emergency organisation prompted by the natural disaster called as Kedarnath Ghati Vishthapan Va Punarvas Sangharsha Samiti said, “We will boycott the 2014 polls, if we are not located soon in the plain areas, or granted an especial financial package, or they failed to rebuild our lives in lines with the pre-devastation times.” The disaster victims said the construction of 100 pre-fabricated houses for the homeless in the Kedar valley is eyewash. It was Bahuguna Government’s ploy to get rid of responsibility of rehabilitating the disaster victims permanently. Shri Ajendra Singh said his organisation would undertake a signature campaign demanding their permanent rehabilitation, instead of just temporary measures.