The dilemma and the debate over the missing and the dead in the Uttarakhand floods continues with the National Disaster Management Authority vice-chairman Marri Shashidhar Reddy stating the number of missing persons could be over 11, 600.
On Monday, Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna had pegged the number of missing at 4045 revising his earlier figure of 3068 a week back.
Reddy said his estimate is derived from a survey of an NGO Sphere India in various parts of the state ravaged by rains in mid June.
“The state government data is based on the FIRs lodged with the police but the actual number of the missing would be much more. We cannot ignore the fact that several areas are still not accessible and we do not know the situation there,” Reddy told HT in a reply to a question.
Apart from the tourists and locals, both of whom are among the casualties, there are thousands of people who come here for livelihood and could be among the missing persons, Reddy added.
“There are about 5000 mules used for carrying people on the Chardham yatra (and at-least as many people would be engaged to run them),” Reddy said.
The claims of the Chief Minister over the numbers of victims were disputed before. While Bahuguna had earlier put the casualties under 1000, Uttarakhand Assembly Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal projected the deaths at over 10, 000.
“It is not a matter of dispute. My observation is that the number could be much more. The number of deaths is set to rise,” Reddy told reporters.
In his defense, Reddy said that NDMA at the center alone cannot stand up to the task during disasters. “We need functional authorities at the State and the district levels to face such calamities,” Reddy said adding that Uttarakhand notified a full-time vice-chairman for the State Disaster Management Authority only after the disaster struck.
Reddy who earlier reviewed the state of buildings in the twin-cities following collapse of a hotel in Secunderabad on Monday that killed 13 called for a review of building policies at the national level.