Stranded pilgrims slam Uttarakhand government, demand Bahuguna quit

Haridwar, June 19 (IANS) A number of trapped pilgrims and tourists from flood-affected areas in Uttarakhand have accused the local government of doing nothing to help them and demanded that Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna resign.

According to Char Dham Yatri Sangathan (CDYS) convenor, Varinder Arora, there are around 25,000 pilgrims and tourists, including him and his family, trapped since Sunday in Damta, 70 km from Yamunotri.

“Yatris (travellers) from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan and Delhi are stuck here and we are feeling miserable and helpless… the government is not interested in saving us,” Arora, a resident of Delhi, told IANS over phone.

According to Arora, the roads around Damta have been washed away and they are running out of food and water. He said the only option is to air-lift them to safety.

Incessant rains in the region since Saturday night have triggered massive landslides, cloudbursts and flash floods blocking several roads.

Over 62,000 pilgrims and tourists are still stranded in calamity-hit Uttarakhand while 11,000 have been rescued. The toll in the havoc stands at 69.

Five MI-17 choppers of the Indian Air Force have been deployed to rescue stranded people and 12 more are being pressed into service.

However, Ganapathy Hegde, a pilgrim from Karnataka, alleged that the choppers were being used to rescue VIPs.

“The helicopters are being used to rescue stranded VIPs… no proper facilities for food and shelter are being provided,” he said.

“State government is sleeping and it seems there is no administration in the state. The only thing it is doing is giving false assurances and hiding the truth,” he added.

Agreed S. Balakrishan from Tamil Nadu who said that there was no coordination between the government authorities.

“Uttarkashi administration has refused to send equipment beyond its boundary because this area does not come under their jurisdiction,” he said.

“The JCB driver demands money from us to clear blocked roads,” he added.

The furious pilgrims demanded the resignation of Bahuguna.

“He (Bahuguna) should be dismissed as his government has totally failed to provide relief to people,” said Arora.

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