Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for not doing enough to improve conditions at relief camps for persons affected by recent communal riots as he made unannounced visits to five such shelters in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.
“The conditions are very bad. Children are dying here. There is a need for the state government to help them,” the 43-year-old Gandhi said.
“UP has a young chief minister (Akhilesh Yadav). He should focus on improving conditions in camps and work to ensure that victims return to their homes.”
UP is a key state in Gandhi’s election plan for 2014 and the Congress is competing with the ruling Samajwadi Party, an ally, for the Muslim vote share. With the SP on the back-foot over its handling of the August-September riots that left more than 50 dead and approximately 40,000 displaced, the Congress hopes to cash in on this and increase its tally of MPs from the state.
However, this could well be an uphill task, perhaps indicated by the fact that several riot victims greeted Gandhi with black flags.
His statement during his first visit in September, that the ISI was trying to recruit riot-hit youth from the area, had also not gone down well with the locals.
Gandhi urged the victims to go back to their homes, saying that by staying on at the camps, they were inadvertently helping those who had instigated the mob violence. He also noticed amity among people and communities, and said the government must expedite the rehabilitation process so that the people can return to their villages.
However, inmates told him they were not ready to go back yet as they feared being attacked again.
The death of children in relief camps due to cold wave has triggered a controversy in the state.
AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistry, who is accompanying Gandhi, alleged the state government has not bothered to provide even basic amenities like adequate foodgrain and drinking water in the camps.
The issue of children dying in Muzaffarnagar camps was raked up in Parliament last week.
The Supreme Court had on December 12 taken "serious" note of deaths of over 40 children in relief camps for riot-affected people in Muzaffarnagar and directed the Uttar Pradesh government to immediately take remedial measures to meet the threat of winter.
Following the court order, the Uttar Pradesh Government had set up a high-level committee to look into the issue.
An estimated 4,000 people are still living in the five relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli.
Over 60 people were killed in the Muzaffarnagar riots that broke out in August.
(With PTI inputs)
Video: Rahul appeals Akhilesh to pay attention to Muzaffarnagar relief camps