West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called up her Uttarakhand counterpart Vijay Bahuguna on Tuesday and urged him to take steps to ensure that pilgrims from West Bengal, who are stranded there following the rain and landslips, are able to return safely. She also assured the Uttarakhand Government of all possible assistance.

About 1,700 pilgrims from the State are stranded in Uttarakhand at Rudraprayag and Karnaprayag, Ms. Banerjee said, adding that the tourists are fine and arrangements have been made to provide them food and shelter.

 “We have taken a decision to send two Ministers from the State — Madan Mitra and Rachpal Singh — to Delhi by an evening flight today [on Tuesday]. They, along with Bhaskar Khulbe [West Bengal’s Resident Commissioner in New Delhi], will proceed to Uttarakhand,” she told journalists at the State Secretariat.

“We have also asked Uttarakhand to open an alternative route from Karnaprayag, which will enable the pilgrims to return.”

The Chief Minister added that senior State officials, including Chief Secretary Sanjay Mitra, are constantly in touch with their Uttarakhand counterparts.

“In 1992 there was a similar situation in Uttarkashi. Back 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.

On why tour operators do not check weather conditions before taking tourists and pilgrims since such incidents occur every year, Ms. Banerjee said that it is difficult for anyone to predict the weather.

 “I told Mr. Bahuguna that we are ready to offer any help since the people of the State are facing difficulties due to rain and overflowing of rivers,” Ms. Banerjee said.