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HT Correspondents, Hindustan Times
Lucknow/Agra, January 12, 2014
Facing flak over his remark about deaths at Muzaffarnagar relief camps, Uttar Pradesh sports and youth welfare minister Narad Rai sought to clarify his stand on Sunday, saying people have died at camps despite proper arrangements made by the government.
 
No death took place at camps for riot-hit victims owing to mismanagement on the part of the government, stressed Rai. He had stoked a controversy a day ago for his comment that “life and death are the rule of nature and even those living in palaces die”.
 
The August-September Muzaffarnagar communal violence, in which 61 people were killed and over 50,000 were uprooted, it appears, is still haunting the Samajwadi Party (SP)-led UP government.
 
After a prolonged debate on vacating the camps — Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had asked UP to take adequate measures — the star-studded Saifai Mahotsav barely 300 km from the camps came under heavy criticism recently.
 
The event was held in SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s ancestral village and saw the participation of Bollywood celebrities. Mulayam and his son, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, were present on the concluding night.
 
The festival, organised at a time when children are dying of cold at the camps, stoked a controversy. Akhilesh, however, accused the media of blowing things out of proportion.
 
Now, Rai’s comments have sparked the latest row in the series, with opposition parties upping the ante against him.
 
The minister, however, said if deaths had occurred even after so much of arrangements, the government expressed sympathy. But death is an eternal truth, he added.
 
He reiterated the UP government had made adequate arrangements for the riot victims.
 
In December last year, a top UP government official had landed in a tight spot for his comments about deaths at relief camps.
 
Reacting to reports that 34 children have succumbed to cold, principal secretary (home) Anil Kumar had said, “Nobody can die of cold. If people died of cold, nobody would have been alive in Siberia.”
 
Akhilesh had criticised the bureaucrat’s comments, saying people should be cautious while facing the press.
 
(With PTI inputs)