The centre on Friday appointed former Union home secretary VK Duggal as the nodal officer for coordinating relief and rescue operations in rain-hit Uttarakhand. A member of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) enjoying the rank of minister of state, Duggal will operate from Dehradun.
After a high level meeting on Friday, Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said there was an impression that lack of coordination among different agencies was hampering relief work. “So we decided to make Duggal the nodal officer,” he said.
Shinde, scheduled to visit Uttarakhand on Saturday, said 34 choppers were engaged in rescue and relief operations.
Indo-Tibetan Border Police chief Ajay Chadha said the challenge was now to help locals reach safe locations since they were also demanding to be rescued along with tourists and pilgrims. “Efforts are on to make expand the helipads for big helicopters like Mi-17 to carry more supplies and ferry more people to safety. Focus is also on building bridges for better connectivity,” he said.
Chadha added his force rescued 25,000 people from Kedarnath temple area since Thursday. But with heavy rainfall expected, rescue workers were running against time to evacuate the stranded.
Meanwhile, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi reached Dehradun late on Friday. “I have witnessed natural disaster in Gujarat and I understand the pain victims and their families undergo. So I have come to Uttarakhand to help out the people in whatever way I can,” he said.
Earlier, BJP chief Rajnath Singh and his predecessor M Venkaiah Naidu called on Shinde seeking the ‘national calamity’ tag for the Uttarkhand disaster. The government is yet to decide on this. Singh also asked BJP workers and traders to contribute liberally for relief and rehabilitation.