The State government’s efforts to airlift stranded pilgrims from the flood-ravaged Uttarakhand it have not materialised due to bad weather since the last 48 hours.

A four-seat private chopper stationed at the Jolly Grant airport near the Dehradun airport is waiting for the skies to clear up for the past two days. Yet, the government has hired another seven-seat helicopter to evacuate pilgrims stuck in Badrinath and nearby areas as the evacuation from Kedarnath was complete.

The Telugu Desam Party has outwitted the Congress government by chartering an aircraft from New Delhi to Hyderabad to transport the pilgrims.

Sources said the helicopter, taken on hire for a very high rate by the government, could not make a single sortie on Sunday and Monday as weather played spoilsport. “Ëfforts by the State government officials to see that at least a couple of pilgrims were evacuated came to nought as the airport authorities denied permission,” sources said.

The government made enquiries with some airlines to operate a chartered flight from Dehradun to Hyderabad for the benefit of stranded pilgrims.

Ministers’ visit aborted

Talking to The Hindu from Dehradun, Civil Supplies Minister D. Sridhar Babu said not much of progress could be made in rescue and relief operations on Monday due to bad weather. “We had to abort our visit to Badrinath within five minutes of taking off in the helicopter. Our top priority now is airlift 500 Telugu-speaking pilgrims from Badrinath as the road to Joshimath is completely cut off,” he said.

Mr. Sridhar Babu along with Union Minister P. Balram Naik, Special officer Sanjay Kumar and Disaster Management and Relief Commission T. Radha met Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahaguna. They drew his attention to complaints that the non-Hindi-speaking pilgrims were being discriminated. Mr. Bahaguna said that the Indian Army takes relief operations as a national subject and does not differentiate between Hindi and non-Hindi speaking people.