Uttarakhand floods: Bahuguna to give damage estimate to PM

Uttarakhand floods: Bahuguna to give damage estimate to PM

Dehradun: Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday to present his government's estimate of losses caused by last month's calamity, and attend a meeting of Union Cabinet's Sub- committee for relief and rehabilitation of flood-hit people.

Bahuguna, who left for Delhi today, will be accompanied by senior officials, including Chief Secretary Subhash Kumar, during his meeting with the Prime Minister, and for the Sub-committee meeting, the Chief Minister's office said.

Bahuguna will present the state government's estimate of the losses caused by the June calamity to the Prime Minister, as well as to the Cabinet sub-committee tomorrow, it said.

The Prime Minister had on July 10 constituted the Cabinet committee to oversee reconstruction and rehabilitation in Uttarakhand.

Defence Minister A K Antony, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde are among the members of the committee headed by Singh.

With the cleaning of the interiors of Kedarnath shrine almost complete, the Chief Minister has convened a meeting of Badri-Kedar Mandir Samiti here on August 2 to finalise a date for resumption of regular prayers.

Efforts are under way to resume prayers at the 8th century shrine at the earliest, Bahuguna told reporters here. He said that the state government's priority is now to transport heavy stone-cutting equipment to Kedarnath area at the earliest to kickstart the debris removal exercise there.

Tonnes of debris, with a strong possibility of decomposed bodies trapped under them, have been lying in the area ever since the calamity struck Uttarakhand last month.

However, the Chief Minister said the clearing of debris at the Himalayan shrine and commencement of regular prayers are separate issues, which should not be clubbed together.

"Prayers would start there on the date decided by the temple committee at the meeting, which will be attended by the Shanaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati and the Rawal (head priest) of Kedarnath temple Bhimashankar Ling," Bahuguna said.

The opinion of officials engaged currently in cleaning operations at the shrine will also be taken before deciding a date, he said. Cleaning of the sanctum sanctorum at the temple and its interiors is almost complete but transportation of heavy stone-cutting equipment to the shrine to clear the huge quantity of debris lying in the area has been delayed due to bad weather, he said.

Accounting for the highest casualties, the Kedar Valley bore the brunt of the 'Himalayan Tsunami' that struck Uttarakhand on June 16-17, but the sanctum sanctorum of the Himalayan shrine was unharmed.

Meanwhile, the weather in Uttarakhand today remained largely clear in most places for the second consecutive day, allowing choppers loaded with foodgrains and other essentials to undertake sortied to the affected villages in the worst-hit Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts.

However, low visibility conditions induced by the overcast sky at certain places posed a hurdle in the operation of choppers, forcing Bahuguna to cancel his visit to Deval, Tharali and Narayanbagad areas of Chamoli district.

Lack of connectivity remains the major challenge in Chamoli district, as key roads were still blocked and restoration work often hampered by bad weather, Additional District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar said.

Adequate relief has been supplied to 84 villages by choppers and efforts are on to cover about 50 more disconnected villages by transporting foodstuff to them on mules and horses, he said.

However, sporadic rains at some places continued to bring debris onto the roads with Purnagiri road in Chamapvat district still blocked by mud and slush rolling down from nearby hills. The road had got blocked three weeks ago.

Repair of damaged bridges also continued with the Gangotri bridge in Uttarkashi district being reopened after several weeks, giving the local people a sigh of relief.

PTI

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