Monks protest govt's apathy in rescuing Kerala pilgrims

Monks protest govt's apathy in rescuing Kerala pilgrims

Monks from the Sivagiri Mutt on Tuesday launched a satyagraha in front of the state secretariat to protest against the government’s apathy in rescuing a 19-member team of pilgrims from Kerala stranded in Badrinath.

The team, which has two monks, Swami Guruprasad and Swami Vishalananda, is staying at an ashram without adequate food and medicines, the protestors claimed. The mutt alleged that despite calls for help, the state government has not taken steps to rescue the pilgrims.

Addressing the monks, Swami Vishudhananda of the mutt said they were “forced to take the protest route” due to the government’s apathy. “There has also been a misinformation campaign, saying that the two monks refused to be rescued by the ops team. The truth is that they felt it was unfair to avail special treatment while the rest of the pilgrims were stranded,” he said.

The pilgrims, comprising senior citizens and children, are staying at the Bholagiri Ashram in Badrinath. The protesters said they weren’t demanding VIP treatment, but requesting for help on humanitarian grounds.

Though the State Legislative Assembly has been suspended till July 8, there was no respite for Oommen Chandy’s government as it faced the heat from different quarters for failing to rescue Malayalis from the flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.

BJP leader and former Union minister O Rajagopal said the state should take a lead from other governments in rescuing people from their respective states. Former minister C Divakaran of the CPI slammed the government for its lack of will to ensure safe return of the pilgrims, despite the presence of Congress heavyweights in the Union government.

CPI state secretary Pannyan Ravindran and BJP state president V Muraleedharan came together on the same platform to protest against the government. Shiv Sena members also joined in. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president Ramesh Chennithala met the monks later in an apparent damage control move.

Non-Resident Keralites’ Affairs (Norka) Minister K C Joseph has been maintaining that the government was working “within limitations and picking up Keralites exclusively for rescue operations was practically impossible.”

A Norka team has been camping at the disaster zone. Officials said around 75 Malayalis were stranded.

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