Nearly 2,000 villages in remote areas of Uttarakhand have no access to food or drinking water. A few hundred kilometers downstream, the scene is altogether different. Places such as Dehradun, Rishikesh and Haridwar are facing a glut of relief material that is getting damaged due to rains.
Unsuspecting visitors travelling through these areas with their car windows rolled down are being bombarded with food packets, mineral water bottles or fruit juice tetra packs without anyone bothering to ask if they need them at all.
Relief camps in these areas are stored with heaps of such relief material, including clothes, whose volume is much higher than what is needed. And more relief material, provided by NGOs and people donating them in their private capacity, are being offloaded every day. Sheltering this material from rain has become a huge task and a large part of it is getting affected.
“A large number of organizations and people want to donate relief material but don’t have resources to send them to distant areas. So, they just dump them at Haridwar and Rishikesh,” said a relief camp organizer at Rishikesh Bus Terminus.
As a result, volunteers and relief camp organizers are forcing these on anyone at sight. Some voluntary groups have lined up along highways and roads to distribute food items.
“Driving from Devprayag to Rishikesh, I encountered a number of groups distributing food and water. While it was nice to see people helping those trapped on the upper reaches but what put me off was their over enthusiasm in forcing it at everyone,” said Vijender Kumar, a tourist from Delhi.
“Despite my protests that I’m not one of the victims, dry fruit packets and biscuits were forced through my car’s window.”
While there are thousands of people stranded without food and water, the authorities say they have their limitations in efficiently arranging a central distribution system.
“Air lifting materials have limitation and we are sending need based items at present. We have a command centre to receive and store relief material but there are a lot of problems as we can’t keep it in the open due to rains,” said Santosh Badoni, nodal officer, Uttarakhand Disaster Management Authority. He said that people unilaterally sending material in private capacity can’t be monitored.
Badoni also said that rescue operations and cremation of dead bodies is their primary concern at this point of time and relief material would come later.
“Relief material is required at Rishikesh and Dehradun as most of the rescued people are coming here. There is enough relief material at places such as Chamoli and Tehri too,” said Ranjeet Sinha, District Magistrate (Tehri). “We are now also providing daal and rice to villagers who are stranded,” he said.