The Uttarakhand chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, refused to declare 5,748 people missing in the mid-June disaster as dead, saying the mission to find them will not be given up.
However, as the deadline for finding the missing ended, he said the process of paying monetary relief of Rs. 5 lakh each to the kin of those dead and missing will begin from Tuesday. But if the missing persons are found, the family will have to return the relief money.
Addressing a press conference along with the Union minister of state for planning and parliamentary affairs, Rajiv Shukla, the CM said the search for finding the missing would go on.
“This is hoping against hope but we can’t declare them dead. We will keep on looking for them and we hope they will surface and return to their homes,” he said.
“A total of 5,748 persons are missing since the tragedy,” he said, adding 934 out of them are from Uttarakhand.
Out of Rs. 5 lakh to be given to the next of kin, Rs. 3.5 lakh will be paid by the Centre and the rest by the respective state governments, Bahuguna said.
“We have compiled a list of missing people according to their states and the same has been send to chief secretaries. The government will compensate them after the states’ reconcile the list,” said Ajay Kumar Pradyot, secretary (in-charge), missing cell.
As per the state government’s list, 5,748 people – including pilgrims and locals – are missing since the mid-June devastation. Majority of the missing pilgrims are from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Delhi.
The relatives of those missing are not ready to give up the search yet. They are publishing advertisements in local dailies and offering cash rewards up to Rs. 10 lakh to anyone who can give information about their missing kin.
Most of those reported missing were from Kedarnath shrine and Rambara, a small settlement that was seven km ahead of the shrine and was turned into just a pile of debris by the floods. The worst affected districts are Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Rudraprayag.