Government to hire helicopter to airlift stranded pilgrims

Andhra Pradesh Government is planning to hire a helicopter to airlift stranded Char Dham yatra pilgrims from rain-hit Uttarakhand.

Union Minister of State for Social Justice P. Balaram Naik, State Ministers – Danam Nagender and D. Sridhar Babu reached Dehradun on Saturday noon and interacted with the AP pilgrims. Three helpdesks have been set up by the State government to assist the victims being brought from the far-flung areas.

The Minister faced a piquant situation in Dehradun when the Uttarakhand administration was unable to provide any information about the missing persons. Adding to their embarrassment, they were denied permission to undertake an aerial survey of the affected areas.

Talking to The Hindu from Dehradun, Mr. Nagender said: “We spoke to Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and urged him to make arrangements to hire a helicopter to shift the pilgrims to relief centres in Dehradun and Rishikesh. Several women are waiting to be shifted to New Delhi,” he said.

He said the Uttarakhand administration was giving first priority to rescuing people stranded in the mountainous terrain but not to search for missing persons. The Indian Army had shifted women to Dehradun for onward journey to New Delhi. Mr. Nagender said they had visited a hospital in Dehradun where 15 pilgrims, mostly from Srikakulam and Vizianagaram, were admitted for treatment.

“They had trekked for three days without food and water. They are totally exhausted and need medical aid,” he added.

Mr. Sridhar Babu said they spoke to a group of 50 women at the TTD Kalyana mandapam in Rishikesh. “They were airlifted from the upper reaches but their husbands were left behind. Most of them are waiting for their spouses and other male family members. We will shift them to New Delhi once their family members arrive”.

Earlier in the day, the Ministers interacted with about 300 pilgrims who reached the AP Bhavan in New Delhi. They were put on extra-coaches attached to Hyderabad bound trains on Saturday morning.