Focus shifts to local victims

Government agencies engaged in relief and rehabilitation in deluge-hit Uttarakhand have now turned their attention to local people,  10 days after the catastrophe struck the hilly state.

Villagers have been complaining that the government was merely focussing on pilgrims to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, ignoring the plight of the local people who are struggling to cope with the devastation and loss of property and life.

“We will do our best to provide relief and rehabilitation to the people of Uttarakhand who were affected by the disaster,” Union Home Secretary R K Singh told reporters outside his North Block office. He promised that authorities will ensure regular supply of essential commodities, establish communication links with the marooned villages and rehabilitate the affected people.
“We will also look for missing people,” Singh said. He flies to Uttarakhand daily in the morning and returns by the evening to oversee the rescue works personally. Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is expected to visit Dehradun again on Friday.

In Dehradun, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said the state machinery will take care of the needs of the local flood victims. “Our plan is to stock food in villages for two months at least. We are worried about the locals. Most stranded pilgrims and tourists have left and the remaining will also be rescued and sent home,” the chief minister said.

Of the 13 districts in the state, 16 lakh people in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Garhwal are estimated to have been affected by the deluge.

The government is yet to come up with an authentic figure for the number of local people perished or the magnitude of damage to their properties.

National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy, however, told reporters that 2,232 houses were damaged in the calamity.

According to the Geological Survey of India’s latest finding in June 2008,  at least 101 of the 233 villages were vulnerable to disasters.

The state, however, did not act on the warning.

A few villages located on the higher reaches are completely cut off from the rest of the state ever since the calamity struck Uttarakhand.

The helpless people have been fighting hunger and also power crisis.

The authorities said reconstructing roads and bridges, besides restoring electricity, would be a herculean task.

The multi-agency rescue operations, involving paramilitary and armed forces, continue in full swing despite intermittent rain.

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