Three CMs later, not much change visible on ground
As the situation at the ground remains unchanged a blame game has begun. Officials blame lack of political will power and inability to find suitable alternate sites for relocation not taking place. Political leaders cite lack of funds as major roadblock.dehradun Updated: Jun 15, 2017 21:14 IST
DEHRADUN. It was four years ago on this day — June 16 — that a devastating deluge wreaked an unprecedented havoc in Uttarakhand.
Flashfloods, induced by cloud bursts and rain, ravaged the Kedarnath valley before coursing down towards Haridwar. The floods had affected more than one lakh people living in around 4,200 villages. Dozens of villages were washed away, 5,000 people died while and hundreds of others were rendered homeless.
As the immensity of the disaster unfolded, the then Congress government, led by Vijay Bahuguna, caught on the wrong foot, made a slew of promises, and concrete measure to prevent any more such tragedies. One such promise was to relocate 395 villages falling in the high risk flood and landslide prone areas to safer places.
Four years and three chief ministers later, the promise still remains on the paper. Not a single disaster prone village has been relocated.
Soon after the June 2013 calamity, Bahuguna had ordered a survey of villages vulnerable to natural calamities. The survey conducted jointly by the Geological Survey of India and Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology found 352 villages unsafe. Later some more villages were added in the list.
The tragedy became the undoing of Bahuguna who lost the chief minister’s post to Harish Rawat.
With their being limited resources at the state government’s disposal, Rawat met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded a ₹13,000-crore package for relocating the villages.
As the situation at the ground remains as it is, a blame game has begun. The officials blame lack of political will power and inability to find suitable alternate sites for relocation not taking place, the political leaders cite lack of funds as major roadblock.
The incumbent Congress state chief, Pritam Singh, who remained a minister in the Harish Rawat cabinet, blamed the Centre for not helping out Uttarakhand.
“Our government had done extensive work on relocation of disaster prone villages across the state but we didn’t get support from the central government. It is a well known fact that the Centre withdrew all kinds of budgetary support to the Harish Rawat government,” Pritam said.
He claimed that “despite all odds”, the previous Congress government was “able to bring Chardham pilgrimage back on track within a year”.
“This (Trivendra Singh Rawat) government should not face any problems in shifting the villages as it is run by double engine,” he said in an apparent reference to the BJP governments being in place in the state and at the Centre. “They , however, lack the willingness.”
Officials in the state disaster management department claim that the detailed project report (DPRs) for at least 73 most sensitive villages has been prepared and their relocation may begin after the ongoing budget session concludes.
“We expect the state assembly to ratify the budget for beginning to relocate the disaster prone villages. DPRs are ready for first phase of shifting of villages and the process will start after department gets the budget for the same,” said secretary, disaster management, Amit Singh Negi.
Negi said the task was “huge” and “bound to take time”. As per sources in the department, they need ₹8-10 crore for relocation of one village.
The first two years after the disaster were devoted only to surveys and studies for identifying the disaster prone villages. Around 30 villages have been identified in Kedar valley alone.
Meanwhile, of the 4,200 deaths recorded by the officials, families of almost 100 victim pilgrims are yet to get death certificates. This has deprived the families of compensation.