Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: As massive rescue operations are underway in Uttarakhand, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Friday said that at present the priority is to bring affected people to safe places and not to point fingers at who is responsible for massive destruction.
In a veiled attack on BJP’s demand of calling the Uttrakahnd tragedy a natural calamity, the Union Minister said that at present relief and rescue operations are government’s priority and it`s not important whether we call it a national calamity or not.
Tewari announced that special trains for stranded tourists and pilgrims from Haridwar to Delhi, Ambala and Lucknow have been launched.
As many sections are blaming the government for the devastating floods, the Congress minister said that this is not the right time to point fingers and we will analyse things later.
“Official casualty figures will be shared in the evening,” Tewari added.
Tewari added that the Cabinet Secretary is monitoring the relief operations.
"The IAF has committed 13 more aircraft, taking the total to 43. It is also activating landing grounds at Gouchar and Dharasu in Uttarakhand to establish an airbase," Tewari told reporters here after a ministerial meeting on the Uttarakhand disaster.
"IAF plans to operate Advanced Light Helicopter and Cheetah for rescue operations. MI 17 has landed in Gouchar with food and paratroopers," he added.
Tewari said that the situation is "being monitored at the level of the cabinet secretary and regular meetings are taking place."
According to the minister, over 33,000 people have been rescued to safer places while trains are carrying all stranded passengers back to their destinations free of cost.
"The ministry of home affairs has requested that the government of India release Rs.145 crore from the state disaster relief fund. The home minister will visit the state tomorrow (Saturday)," he said.
"There are 739 mobile towers in Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi, and of them, 207 are down. Measures are in place to see that these towers are made operational in the next 24 hours," Tewari said.
Thousands are said to be missing in Uttarakhand after unprecedented rains and cloudburst led to landslides and flash floods. More than 200 people were killed and over 50,000 are still stranded.