Locals in flood-hit areas of Uttarakhand have allegedly been overlooked in the ongoing rescue operations that are ‘focussed’ on stranded pilgrims.
More than 2,000 villages in Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts are estimated to have been totally or partially affected by the devastating flash floods.
More than 100 people in Guptkashi and adjoining villages in Rudraprayag district have died while at least 2,000 are missing.
Residents of Devli, Bhanigram, Lamgaundi, Lwani, Rudrapur Khat Khimana, Chunni, Pasalat, Swaang and other villages have lost at least 70 people. Most male members of these villages were priests in Kedarnath temple.
NGOs active in these areas say the focus on pilgrims have kept the locals off the rescue radar. “Most of the families here have lost their bread winners,” said Sanjay Tiwari of village Bhanigram.
A cluster of 40 villages such as Khumera, Barsu, Devshal and Narainkota nearby, 40 people are reported missing. There worked as muleteers or in hotels and ran shops on the route from Gaurikund to Kedarnath.
“The markets are closed as most of the shopkeepers suffered casualties. The administration should provide kerosene, candles, solar lamps and food grains to the people of the area to lessen their miseries,” said Rakesh Raman Shukla of village Rudrapur. Food is available in relief camps at Guptkashi but the villagers find it difficult to walk 4-6 km to eat.Rudraprayag district magistrate Dilip Jawalkar said he would ‘look into’ the difficulties faced by the locals of the affected villages.
“Locals hardly had livelihood options and now they have lost everything,” said Avdhash Kaushal of a Dehradun-based NGO. He said the government should chalk out a long-term development plan for flood-hit locals.
“Our immediate concern is to provide food to the villagers,” said Kamal Badoni of another NGO involved in relief operations at Guptkashi.
(With inputs from Anmol Jain)