Uttarakhand: Stranded pilgrims manipulated, robbed and blackmailed, say reports

Uttarakhand army rescue.jpg

Dehradun: Shocking reports of exploitation of distraught travellers have come to the fore in Uttarakhand with some stranded people forced to pay Rs 250 for a 'paratha' and Rs 100 for a small pack of chips. With their money and belongings washed away in the floods, hundreds of survivors did not get anything to eat for days, the reports said.
The stranded pilgrims were manipulated, looted and blackmailed during hardtimes, the reports stated.
"People were forced to buy a Rs 4 biscuit pack for Rs 1,000," said a tourist rescued from Rishikesh said, reported ANI.
An NDTV report, quoting the pilgrims, said that they were robbed by unknown people. Another tourist, who was rescued from Garunchatti near Kedarnath said, “We had to do what we could to stay alive, had to eat horse feed till help came.”
Meanwhile, the rescuers were racing against time to reach out to 1000 stranded pilgrims sighted in the gorges and ravines between Kedarnath and Gaurikund as 17 foreign tourists were evacuated from flood-hit Dharasu in Uttarkashi district.
The next 24 hours will be crucial for the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) force to carry out rescue operations in the flood-ravaged state, as it is anticipated that the weather may take a turn for the worse.
Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who arrived in the Uttarakhand capital to review rescue efforts with Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, said operations are underway on a war footing to evacuate about 40,000 pilgrims stranded in various places and set a three-day deadline to the agencies involved to complete the evacuation process.
The death toll in flash floods and landslides in Uttarakhand crossed 550 on Friday and was expected to rise on Saturday as an eight-member team of experts is being sent to Kedarnath shrine to take a count of bodies lying in the temple area. Disaster Management authorities here said that photos of the bodies strewn all over the area will be taken and put on the state government's official website.
Officials said about 1000 more pilgrims stranded in Rambara and Junglechatti areas en route to Kedarnath shrine in Rudraprayag district were sighted by security forces. These people seem to have taken refuge in the gorges and ravines in these areas when the massive deluge occurred nearly a week ago.
Hungry for days, many of those sighted are ill and and in need of immediate medical care, official sources said, adding the sick and ailing among will be evacuated on a priority basis.
Principal Secretary of State Disaster Management Authority said a total 0f 73,000 pilgrims and tourists have been rescued till date. Apart from the 40 choppers in operation, the Rajasthan government has also given two choppers and 30 buses for evacuation of pilgrims.
The Gujarat government has also put into operation two chartered planes 747 Boeings (Jet Airways) with a capacity of 140 persons each to ferry pilgrims from the state stuck in high altitude areas to Ahmedabad.
Chopper operations were hampered here early this morning with overcast conditions delaying the programme of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was to undertake an aerial survey of the affected areas in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts. A control room for pilgrims from Gujarat has been set up at Shantikunj Haridwar.
Next: Army will counter Uttarakhand flash flood situation: Lt. Gen. Anil Chait

Army will counter Uttarakhand flash flood situation: Lt. Gen. Anil Chait
Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh): Central Army Commander Lieutenant General Anil Chait assured that army personnel would use all resources, skill and leadership to save and evacuate people stranded in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand.
"We have special troops so things are under control. Also making sure to see that work that is happening in Uttar Pradesh is not affected. We have adequate resources, leadership and the skill to counter such situations. We have also re-deployed troops in the areas which have been worse hit to counter any further issues or misshapenness," said Lt. Gen. Chait.
"Uttarakhand is big no doubt. We have more than 8,500 personnel marshalling the rescue operation in that area. Another special force will be deployed in the area, so that the effectiveness and speed of work increases," he added.
Lt. Gen. Chait further said, "Since yesterday (Friday), the jawans have helped 728 stranded people talk to their family members and have extended help to about 1,000 people in Mangal Patti area from where the process to shift people to Gauri Kund has started. The GOC-in-chief assured that the force would not disappoint the people and every located human life would be saved."
He said that in Pindari Glacier area, a group of 45 children have been saved while efforts are on to locate another group.
Some people stranded on the bridge on the Alaknanda on the road from Badrinath to Joshimath and Rudraprayag have been saved, Lt. Gen. Chaith said, adding that those left in Gadariya and Govindham would also be saved by tonight.
Next: Actor Sonakshi Sinha appeals for help for Uttarakhand flood victims

Sonakshi Sinha appeals for help for Uttarakhand flood victims
Kolkata: With food and water being sold at exorbitantly high prices to tourists and pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand, Bollywood actress Sonakshi Sinha on Saturday appealed for help for the flash flood victims.
"This morning I saw in the news that food and water are being sold deliberately at very high prices. This should not be done. I would highly appreciate if we can help them out," Sonakshi told reporters here.
In the city to promote her upcoming film 'Lootera', Sonakshi appealed people to contribute in whatever they can for the flood victims. Her father and actor-politician Shatrughan Sinha has already volunteered to donate Rs 50 lakh for the rehabilitation of flood-affected people. 
"The contribution is from the whole family. We are together with our father on this," said the 'Dabangg' actress.
Actor Ranveer Singh, who plays the male lead in 'Lootera' releasing July 5, described it as a "national tragedy".
"I think it is a national tragedy. Now it's important to prepare ourselves for the future as this might happen again," he said. 

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