HindustanTimes Sat,30 Aug 2014

Himachal tragedy: Locals allege sand-mafia link in water release

Naresh K Thakur, Hindustan Times  Dharamsala, June 10, 2014
First Published: 00:11 IST(10/6/2014) | Last Updated: 00:18 IST(10/6/2014)

The excitement to get clicked on a trip to the hills of Himachal cost 24 engineering students their lives while those who survived and watched their friends being washed away in horror will have lasting scars of the tragedy.

As blame game started on the cause of the tragedy, villagers raised fingers at the timing the authorities chose to release the water. They said days are longer in summers and there are numerious activities underway on the riverbank at the time when water was released.

“If the authorities had to release the water they could have done it after 9PM. It was the timing also that caused the tragedy,” said Brij Lal, a local.

The villagers also allege a nexus between project authorities-local administration and sand mafia in the area. A local, on condition of anonymity, said that sand mafia becomes active in the region in the evening.

“The authorities often release the water in the evening to flush out the silt deposited in the reservoir. The project authorities release the water at the time convenient for the sand mafia to extract sand illegally,” said the villager.

“The local administration also doesn’t act against the illegal mining. Even the railing on the roadside have been stolen or damaged by sand mafia who has laid small roads to the riverbank from national highway,” he added.

Local people and students who survived in the incident later blocked national highway-21 in protest that resulted in long queue of vehicles on both sides of the road.

Meanwhile, the local administration has arranged the stay of the survived students and faculty members at River Bank hotel at Mandi and issued helpline number 01905-223374.

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