Officials from different States are working round-the-clock in Dehra Dun's control room to coordinate relief operations of visitors affected by the Uttarakhand floods.
The telephones have been constantly ringing here. Officials from different States are working round-the-clock, receiving frantic calls from pilgrims in distress or those who have already been rescued. The location and names of those stranded somewhere are immediately passed on to the authorities responsible for rescue by helicopters, trekking routes or by road.
The State Emergency Operation Centre and the State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre in the Uttarakhand Secretariat campus in Dehra Dun are buzzing with such activities to assist the flood victims and coordinate the rescue and relief operations.
On receiving the calls, the officials ask the rescued callers to contact officials deputed at the Jolly Grant Airport, Sahasradhara Helipad, relief camps at Rishikesh or Hardwar for assistance for free stay, medication and free bus, rail or air tickets to return home. The officials also pass on the list of pilgrims to their counterparts stationed at relief camps to take care of the people in distress.
Senior officers from different States including Bihar, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan and Nepal could be seen taking panicked calls from tourists and pilgrims; making arrangements for their rescue, stay, medication and travel back home.
“These telephonic requests keep coming throughout the day and we keep forwarding the details to concerned officials,” an employee of the State Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre said.
A general feeling is that the State government should make it mandatory for all travel agencies and tour operators to give a list of persons being taken on long journeys to the local police station so that the exact number of persons in distress could be known during such times of crisis.
S.T.K. Jakkaiyan, former MP and special representative of the Tamil Nadu government in New Delhi, T.S. Sridhar, Relief Commissioner and Gagandeep Singh Bedi, Revenue Secretary of Tamil Nadu, said there was information that 23 persons from the southern State who had come for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra were stranded at Sirka in Pithoragarh. Efforts were being made to bring them to Sosa from where they could be airlifted to Dharchula. From Dharchula, they will be sent to Delhi by road from where they would be taken back home by air. Again, 12 persons, who were thought to be stuck at Gaurikund, had not made any contact so far. Mr. Jakkaiyan said that 377 people had been sent to Tamil Nadu by air and 90 by train so far.
K.R. Pisda, Secretary Revenue of Chhattisgarh, said that 300 out of the 500 rescued from the State had been sent back while 1,500 had returned on their own. There were about 201 more persons from Chhattisgarh stranded at Badrinath, Kedarnath axis and Harsil.
Ravindra Panwar, Principal Secretary from Bihar, said that although 505 rescued persons had gone back, about 60 were still missing in the Kedarnath and Badrinath areas.
T. Radha, Commissioner for Disaster Management of Andhra Pradesh, said it took three days to get the list of 2,600 pilgrims from the State visiting Uttarakhand from travel agents through the District Collectors and tehsildars. “The system of organising tours to places like Badrinath or Kedarnath needs to be revamped so that the authorities know who all are travelling in a group during times of crisis,” he said.
Piyush Rautela, executive director of the Uttarakhand Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre, said that ceaseless efforts were being made to locate stranded pilgrims and bring them back to safety.