Pics: Gujarat govt spearheads Uttarakhand relief operations

Dehradun, July 18: The unprecedented natural disaster in Uttarakhand shocked India as cloud bursts and heavy rainfall in the catchment areas and valleys of rivers Yamuna, Bhagirathi, Mandakini and Alaknanda destroyed roads, buildings, bridges, killing and stranding thousands.

It was like a Tsunami from the sky in Mandakini/Kedarnath valley that washed away Kedar, Ramvada, Gaurikund, Son Prayag, Ukhimath, etc. causing loss of life of more than 5000 persons and thousands of animals, damages to property and road blocks in the state.

As soon as the Gujarat state administration realised that a large number of Gujarati tourists were trapped at various places, they established immediate contacts with the Uttarakhand administration through the State Emergency Operation Centre (SEOC).

The preliminary details of damage and magnitude of calamity was obtained from Tehsildars, Collectors and District Magistrates (DM) of various districts as well as the Executive Director.

The destruction was massive. Floods washed away bridges, landslides destroyed roads, Power and Communication were non-existent.

Uttarakhand administration and the Government of India (GoI) together with Indian Air Force (IAF), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Indian Army, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and local Police forces swung into action. The task was immense, the damage was colossal.

Simultaneously, Gujarat State Government in SEOC started Helpline (079-23251902) for the affected people. Gujarat cabinet passed a special resolution on Wednesday, 19th June 2013 expressing sorrow at the loss of lives in the natural calamity and observed a two minute silence to pray for the departed souls.

A flurry of relief activities were organised by the state.

Narendra Modi oversees

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a relief disbursement camp.

Medical relief good about to be disbursed

Officials at a medical relief storage meant for Uttarakhand flood-hit victims.

A medical relief camp

Medical officials from Gujarat treat a man injured in Uttarakhand calamity.

Medical relief

A mobile dispensary van of the Gujarat government at a relief camp to cater to those affected in the Uttarakhand calamity.

The devastated Kedarnath town

The temple town of Kedarnath was completely devastated by the floods in June.

Uttarakhand relief officials were contacted. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi got in touch with his Uttarakhand counterpart Vijay Bahuguna and expressed deep shock and sorrow for the devastation caused by the calamity. Modi announced an immediate assistance of Rs 2 crore from the chief minister's relief fund. A sum of Rs 3 crore was letter added.

Following this, a high level Gujarat Relief Co-ordination team under the leadership of P K Parmar, IAS, Relief Commissioner and Principal Secretary was deputed to provide support including lodging, boarding and transportation and to coordinate efforts to facilitate safe return of the Gujarati travelers. The team camped at a central location near the main exit point of the travelers.

The first action taken was publicising the phone numbers of the officials co-coordinating the relief.

A Gujarat Control Room was opened in the campus of Shantikunj Gayatri Parivar courtesy its head, Dr Pranav Pandya. Besides local helpline numbers and basic amenities, the campus was equipped with computers and internet facility, medical support and parking space for buses.

Messages and information started pouring in from various quarters. Relief and Rescue work started in earnest.

Apart from Rishikesh and Haridwar, teams were posted at Jolly Grant Airport & Sahastradhara Air base. A senior official, Aswini Kumar was posted at Dehradun.

Another group led by T S Bisht was sent to Guptakashi to aid tourists returning from Kedarnath.

Over and above this, all officers were in close contact with District officers of Uttarakhand, local ashrams, NGOs, relatives of pilgrims and local media.

These efforts yielded results. Over the next week, a group of tourists from Bhavnagar, stranded in Janankichatti was rescued. Scores of pilgrims were evacuated from Guptakashi, Gaurikund, Ramwada, Kedarnath, Garudchatti- Hanuman Gufa, Bhairavnath temple between Ramwada and Gaurikund, Badrinath, Uttarkashi, Gauchar, Chamoli, Sukhi top, Gangotri, etc.

Every message, be it from relatives, pilgrims returning from the top, stranded pilgrims, Gujarat District officials, MLAs, was noted and addressed.

The rescue teams had at their disposal the entire financial and administrative might of the Gujarat government.

More than 27 buses including 20 buses from Delhi were booked and kept ready by Tourism Corporation of Gujarat Limited (TCGL) for transporting pilgrims from Haridwar to Ahmedabad.

Small and large aircrafts, organized by the Government of Gujarat ferried hundreds of critically serious and aged passengers to Ahmedabad in the following days.

Government of Gujarat requested Railway authorities to add special trains and attached additional compartments in trains starting from Hardwar to Ahmedabad. This proved to be a boon for thousands of affected pilgrims.

The rescue teams set up helipads for IAF and private helicopters to pick up stranded and injured pilgrims.

Each returning pilgrim was given medical facilities, lodging, boarding and food packets and water for their return journey. A medical team from Gujarat screened 12,266 pilgrims and treated 1,396 during their stay.

During this entire process, the Gujarat chief minister was constantly on top of the situation and was briefed about the action taken on a daily basis. He even took 4.5 hours of aerial survey of the four valleys of Yamuna, Bhagirathi, Mandakini and Alaknanda.

Following his visit, a cheque of Rs 3 crore from the chief minister's relief fund was handed over to the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand as a part of relief in flood affected areas. This amount was in addition to Rs 2 crore announced earlier for the victims.

During the entire duration of the operation, special care was taken to ensure no discrimination between Gujarati and non-Gujarati pilgrims was exercised.

When the last bus with the passengers departed for Gujarat, at total 2,890 persons had been sent back home; 157 by air, 636 by bus, 1,734 by train and 363 by own means.

After completing the formalities, the seniors of the team returned leaving behind a Deputy Collector and three support staff to coordinate delivery and dispatch of relief material coming from Gujarat.

About 27,934 Complete Family Kits with ration, clothes, utensils, etc., with around 43 articles and 3,482 Ration Kits were donated by Gujarat to Uttarakhand to be distributed in the affected areas.

The tireless team of officials who worked day and night to arrange for relief were (1) P K Parmar, IAS, Team Leader (2) T S Bisht, IPS (3) S C Pant, IFS (4) Ashwani Kumar, IAS (5) Sandeep Kumar, IAS (6) B J Bhatt, GAS (7) D L Rathod, GAS (8) Support staff.

While the media left no stone unturned in maligning the well intentioned efforts of the Govt. of Gujarat by highlighting distasteful comments like 'Rambo Act', ‘rank opportunism' and ‘help only for the Gujaratis'; the facts and figures highlighted in the report above lay bare the hollow jingoism behind the charges.

By displaying a brilliant response to a disaster of such epic proportions, the entire team of Gujarat truly demonstrated the adage -"Actions speak louder than words".

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