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Missing or dead? Unsure govt to offer kin relief

Dehradun, July 15, 2013, DHNS: 2:00 IST

5,748 untraced presumed killed in U'khand floods

At least 5,748 people remain untraced and presumed dead in the Uttarakhand floods as the official deadline to trace missing persons expired on Monday, a month after calamity struck the hill state.

The Uttarakhand government on Monday said it would continue with its efforts to search the missing people. It would also start disbursing monetary relief to the next of kin on Tuesday.

“A total of 5,748 people are missing till date, 934 of them are from Uttarakhand. The list of the dead will be sent to chief secretaries of all states. Uttar Pradesh has the maximum number of missing people, at least 2,000. Madhya Pradesh has a little over 1,000 people missing. Several others from Rajasthan, Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana are also missing,” Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna told reporters.

Bahuguna hoped that these people would eventually return. Since the one-month deadline to trace the missing persons ended on Monday, the process of disbursing a monetary relief of Rs 5 lakh each will start on Tuesday. The amount includes Rs 3.5 lakh from the Centre. The Uttarakhand government will pay an additional Rs 1.5 lakh each for the 934 victims from the state. Some states have already announced compensation for those who perished in the floods.

The government’s announcement that over 5,700 people from 18 states are missing and presumed dead perhaps signals the end of the road for hundreds of people who have been camping in the hill state, hoping to find their loved ones.

The one-month deadline set by the government has invited criticism, with many helpless relatives apprehending that the search operations could now take a back seat. Bahuguna, however, said: “Search for the missing persons will go on. This is hoping against hope, but we can’t declare them dead. The mission to find them will go on,” Bahuguna said.

In case the missing persons are traced, the family will have to return the relief money, the chief minister, accompanied by Union Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla, said at a news conference here.

“No death certificates will be issued. Relatives will have to sign an affidavit and an indemnity bond to get the monetary relief,” Bahuguna said.

In the wake of the tragedy, the government is planning to limit the number of pilgrims on the Kedarnath route to 2,000. There are around 10,000 pilgrims at the shrine complex during the Chardham Yatra daily. The government is planning an online registration system. Pilgrims will be stopped at Rishikesh in case of inclement weather.

The challenge before the Uttarakhand government is to drop heavy equipment on Kedarnath and other areas, where hundreds of bodies could be lying under five to seven feet of debris.

Bodies have also been sighted in the Rambada area, a few kilometres from the shrine complex. Rescue teams have not been able to reach the site yet. At least 30 villages in the state still remain cut off.

Former Minister died

In a tragic turn of events, less than a month after his wife Pushpa and two relatives went missing in the Uttarakhand deluge, former Haryana minister Tejinder Pal Mann died following a cardiac arrest in New Delhi on Sunday, said a Haryana government spokesperson said.

Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda visited Mann’s family in Karnal on Monday and expressed his condolence.

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