The raging Uttarakhand forest fire has given the Congress fodder to attack the BJP-led NDA government in the Centre for failing to contain the blaze that has destroyed acres of forestland and claimed several lives.
Hitting out at the Centre, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala accused the Modi-government of not doing enough to contain the fire and blamed the absence of a state government in Uttarakhand for exacerbating the damage caused by the blaze.
The state has been at the centre of political slugfest between the Congress and the BJP, after the Centre recommended President’s rules in the hill state. Accusing the BJP of trying to dismiss a “duly-elected government in the state”, the Congress has in Parliament and outside dubbed the decision to impose President’s Rule as “murder of democracy” and “unconstitutional”.
“While the Modi government is fuelling political crisis in a peaceful state, it has miserably failed to tackle a major environmental tragedy. The magnitude of the fire has worsened because there is no elected government in the state,” Surjewala said.
Even as the Centre stressed it has pushed into action additional resources and manpower to contain the blaze, making all efforts to control it, Surjewala said had there been a government in the state, there would have been “better coordination” to control the inferno.
Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar’s statement that the government will study the reasons behind such major fires and prepare an action plan was also parsed by the Congress leader. He took a pot shot at the environment minister for conducting “press conference in air conditioned rooms in Delhi to douse fire in Uttarakhand.”
While union home minister Rajnath Singh held discussions with senior state government officials to control the blaze; Javadekar said his ministry has begun trials for a pre-fire alert system that will issue warnings via SMS about possible fire outbreaks and forewarn forest departments.
“We are issuing fire alerts through satellite since last year. Wherever a fire breaks out in any remote forest, we get to know immediately. But these alerts are only issued after the fire has started,” Javadekar said.
The Centre has dispatched several teams of National Disaster Response Force to help control the fire. A Mi 17 chopper of the IAF was pushed into service to sprinkle waters in Nainital to control the forest fires.
“Government is taking the forest fires of Uttarakhand very seriously. 6000 people have been deployed for fighting it. We also granted Rs 5 crore to the state yesterday. Our top officer, including the DG of Forest department is on the spot guiding the local forces. The air force, the Home Ministry...all are helping and guiding the residents there,” Javadekar said.