Senior West Bengal officials in touch with Uttarakhand counterparts, she says

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called up her counterpart in Uttarakhand, Vijay Bahuguna, on Tuesday and urged him to take steps to ensure the safe return of pilgrims from West Bengal stranded due to the rains and landslips.

She also assured the Uttarakhand government of all possible assistance from the State government.

“I feel that in times of natural disasters, [we] should rise above politics and stand by the people. In Uttarakhand, there is a government of an opposite party [Congress] but I am not bothered about that,” she said.

About 1,700 pilgrims from the State are stranded in the “Land of the Gods” at places such as Rudraprayag and Karnaprayag, Ms. Banerjee said. The tourists were fine and arrangements had been made to provide them food and shelter, she told reporters at the State Secretariat here.

“We have taken the decision to send two Ministers from the State, Madan Mitra and Rachpal Singh, to Delhi by an evening flight today [Tuesday]. They, along with Mr. Kulbe [West Bengal’s Resident Commissioner in New Delhi], will proceed to Uttarakhand,” she said.

“We have also asked the Uttarakhand government to open an alternative route from Karnaprayag, which will enable the pilgrims to return,” Ms. Banerjee said, pointing out that senior officials from the State, including Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra, were in constant touch with their counterparts in Uttarakhand.

“In 1992, there was a similar situation in Uttarkashi. Then, I had gone there and brought the stranded pilgrims back. Since the panchayat elections are round the corner, I have to stay back,” she said.

When journalists observed that such incidents took place every year because tour operators did not check weather conditions before inviting tourists and pilgrims, Ms. Banerjee said it was difficult for anyone to predict the weather. However, the operators did have a responsibility to ensure that the tourists are able to return, she said.

“I told the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand that since people of the State are facing difficulties due to rain and overflowing of rivers, we are ready to offer all kinds of help,” Ms. Banerjee said.

  • Mamata assures Uttarakhand of all possible assistance

  • Seeks opening of alternative route from Karnaprayag