Rattled by the media reports over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s rescue mission airlifting 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims stranded in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, the hill state has prohibited unilateral efforts by other states to evacuate their respective residents and made a plea for a coordinated disaster relief and rescue operation.
Officials said the states concerned should lend their aircraft and choppers to the Uttarakhand government for carrying out the rescue operations and must ensure that all available resources are provided to the ongoing relief work in the flood-affected areas.
“The individual efforts are creating confusion in such a massive operation. We need help from all the state governments but they must put the resources at the disposal of state government because we need to rescue everybody from the critical terrain.”
“For us there is no state-wise priority. We want everybody safe and secure. We request all state governments to follow the direction of our officials so that integrated machinery can focus on life saving efforts,” they said.
The Vijay Bahuguna-led Congress Government in Uttarakhand is also concerned over disaster-tourism and will not allow choppers to burn fuel while politicians gawk at human suffering.
“We want only the affected people on the choppers and not someone who only wants to exploit the tragic situation,” an official said.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has also spoken out against it and has advised the politicians to stay away from the state.
Significantly, Shinde’s statement came on a day when Congress deputy chief Rahul Gandhi visited Uttarakhand for carrying out an aerial survey of the devastated region. “We advise all VIPs not to visit Uttarakhand now. All agencies are engaged in relief and rescue efforts. Such visits hamper their work. If any VIP does not listen to the advice, he may not be allowed to landing in Uttarakhand,” Shinde said. The state government has also initiated action against the hotels and taxi operators who are fleecing the stranded pilgrims. The authorities have asked the taxi operators to place their vehicles at the government’s disposal and they will be paid the fare fixed by the state Transport Department.