The Supreme Court on Thursday voiced concern at the plight of thousands of pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand owing to floods and landslips and directed the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Collectors of the affected districts to rescue them immediately and provide relief.
A vacation Bench of Justices A.K. Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi acted on a writ petition, which advocate Ajay Bansal filed highlighting the plight of 70,000 persons stranded in Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and other areas. The court made it clear that the State government should not be discriminatory either in offering the stranded people relief or in airlifting them.
Appearing for Mr. Bansal, senior counsel M.N. Krishnamani told the court that advocate Manoj Goel called him up saying he was stranded in Gangotri, along with 2,000 pilgrims, and the administration gave them no relief. He said there was no helipad, so evacuation proved difficult.
Additional Solicitor-General Rakesh Khanna, who appeared for the Home Ministry, said the Centre was giving the State whatever assistance possible, including helicopters for airlifting those stranded.
Counsel Rachana Srivastava, appearing for the State government, explained the steps taken for rescue and relief. Seven helicopters were deployed but pilgrims could not be airlifted at present because of bad weather. All efforts were being made to provide them with food, water and medicine.
In its interim order, the Bench said that though the relief the petitioner sought was confined to those affected in Gangotri, given that other districts were also badly affected, it was enlarging the scope of the petition. It directed the NDMA, the Government of India and the Collectors of all affected districts to provide the affected persons with food, medicine, drinking water and other essential items, including fuel.
The Bench directed the Centre to give the State government the resources required for rescue and relief and deploy helicopters in sufficient numbers for evacuation of the affected. It asked the State to file a report detailing the steps it had taken by June 25, when the petition will come up for further hearing.