The Centre has allocated an immediate grant of Rs. 50 crore to the Sikkim government that will be followed by a detailed assessment to ensure the medium-term and long-term rehabilitation of the victims of the September 18 earthquake that devastated the region, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Gangtok on Thursday.
The death toll from the tragedy rose to 74 in Sikkim even as some areas remained inaccessible and relief material had to be airdropped, an official of the Sikkim government told The Hindu over telephone from Gangtok.
According to him, Mr. Chidambaram who conducted an aerial survey of some of the places affected reviewed the situation with Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling. He also visited some of the injured who have been admitted to a hospital in the Capital.
Mr. Chidambaram later said that both the immediate works that needed to be carried out as well as the financial position of the State in coping with the disaster were reviewed.
The Sikkim government was not short of funds and had been instructed to go ahead and spend the money for relief operations, he said. “Just to make sure that enough money is there to spend, with the approval of the Prime Minister, I have announced an immediate relief grant of Rs. 50 crores to the government of Sikkim,” Mr Chidambaram said.
He also said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wanted to visit Sikkim before he left for Washington, but there was no point as it was the second day of the tragedy and relief work would have been hampered. The Prime Minister would not have been able to visit the affected areas.
“He [Dr. Singh] has asked me to tell the government of Sikkim that he would visit the State first thing after his return from Washington,” Mr. Chidambaram added.
Meanwhile, the Sikkim government has been asked to prepare a memorandum on the losses suffered during the earthquake, he said.
“Without waiting for the memorandum, a Central team will come to Sikkim to make assessments. We will have two assessments ready and, based on that, long term and medium term rehabilitation programme will be drawn out,” Mr. Chidambaram said.