Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Interview: Why Bahuguna Believes He Shouldn’t Resign?

By M H Ahssan / Dehradun

Facing flak over the handling of rescue operations and politicising the Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna has ruled out resigning and said that the state didn’t have adequate information to prevent the tragedy from taking place.

In an exclusive interview, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister brushed aside criticism from other leaders like the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj who had said he should resign over the handling of rescue efforts. “I think other states have faced such calamities and I dont think such a demand was made by any political leader of this country,” Bahuguna said, adding that the BJP leader might not have been aware of the scale of rescue operations carried out.
He denied allegations that he had favoured Congress leader Rahul Gandhi when he visited Uttarakhand and said that there wasn’t preferential treatment for any of the political leaders. “When these helipads were being used for evacuation we did not allow anyone to use it, including the Home Minister…When Rahul Gandhi drove in then he took a sortie, the entire rescue operation in Kedarnath was over and it was not hampered in any way,” Bahuguna said.

The Chief Minister also said he had refused to accept the Gujarat Chief Minister’s assistance to rebuild the Kedarnath temple because the state government wanted to do it with the assistance of the Archaeological Survey of India . “Mr Modi was kind enough to come here, he had a meeting with me. He offered me 5 crores and I sent him two letters of thanks,” he said.

He also explained why the state had rebuffed the Gujarat Chief Minister’s plea to send the state’s rescue crews to evacuate Gujarati pilgrims. “The other thing that he was offering was that he wanted to send helicopters to the affected areas to evacuate people from Gujarat. Other states requested the same. You can’t segregate people of this country into states. All these operations were being monitored by army and state administration.”

“We hade given them tokens and people were using these choppers by the numbers allocated to them.  I can’t allow a parallel rescue operation by any state government,” Bahuguna said.

The Chief Minister also refused to accept the blame for ignoring warnings from the meteorological department which had forecast heavy rains in the state. “Prediction of rain and hail is very common and we need specific information. If there is heavy rains predicted people stay in their houses and are not evacuated,” he said, adding that they needed a system that can give specific information

The state government is also nowhere close to documenting how many people are dead and missing, with Bahuguna saying that they were still verifying how many people were missing and officially the number of dead stood at around 600 presently. “The total number of complaint of people missing is 3,068 from Uttarakhand and other states. The number of dead is 500 to 600 presently,” he said.

A visual survey had confirmed the presence of around 500 to 600 bodies between Kedarnath and Gaurikund and some bodies have been recovered downstream. The state would use the missing complaints filed to verify how many people may have died in the calamity and it would be some time before the final death toll is announced and compensation awarded.

And no matter what his adversaries in the party may say, Bahuguna has said said that he isn’t going anywhere and is still focussed on rescue operations. “My committment is to give relief to my people, rehabilitate them to whatever I can to the best of my ability. In politics there is nothing certain, everything is uncertain,” He said, adding that the all the party’s MLAs stood united in this time of crisis.

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