Millennium Post

'Preparedness key to overcome panic'

As a former CM and army engineer, do you think that the disaster which devastated the higher hills of Uttarakhand and halted the ongoing Char Dham yatra was natural or man-made?
(With some pause) Nature has taken notice of the wrongdoings of man. If you live co-operatively with nature, it will nurture you and lead you to higher level of life but if you go against nature, it can be destructive as we noticed in recent disaster. There should be no exploitation of nature, if nature survives, we do.
Gaura Devi led the famous Chipko movement with a group of hill women followers, albeit being illiterate. She was aware of the fact that villagers are dependent on forest for fire and wood but never at the cost of harming the ecological balance. They know how to live in consonance with nature. Nowadays, the lavish lifestyle is harming nature and forest mafias are exploiting nature for accumulating money.

While you were the CM, the discussion on disaster management had started. Why were the central and state governments apathetic about implementing those?
Let me clear one thing. It was the first time in our country since Independence that a disaster management set-up was undertaken by a CM. We were familiar with the reality that natural catastrophes like earthquakes, floods, cloud-bursts and landslides are regular phenomenon in our region. We figured, we should be geared-up to meet any big challenge from nature. You can’t put a break on natural calamity but at least you can check causalities in the form of human lives and economical loss. But we were not able to move-up further due to Lok Sabha elections in 2007. We however made it very clear to concerned authorities and district administration that there should be no construction work on the routes of Char Dham.

Tourists still recall that your tenure saw some attempts made on regularising yatra traffic. Why these couldn’t be institutionalised?
It needs will and administrative machinery along with initiatives to regularize yatra traffic. On occasions, we ought to take quick, strong and prompt actions against traffic violators. In this way, we can control rash driving, wrong side overtakes, overloading and driving under the influence of liquor. We also deployed interceptors on sensitive cross-roads and risky diversions. From the safety point of view, we directed bus drivers not no go astray in any way. Journey on zigzag roads of the Garhwal region needs constant vigilance and alertness. We also ensured that no surplus movement of pilgrims should occur at any holy shrines. Due to the fragile eco-system of Himalayan shrines, the overcrowding of pilgrims-tourists can be hazardous. To a large extent, we were successful in regularising yatra traffic.

The whole rescue operation remained dependent on army and air force. Is the state machinery not capable of delivering or did it not take any initiative?
In my opinion, post-17 June the situation has taken a gigantic form and panic has erupted in the state machinery too. They have no control of the situation. It’s not easy to go for evacuating and rescuing operations in the dangerous slopes with limited helipads. Moreover, the state government has limited resources. In the whole operation, the ITBP has done good work.

You have also raised issues having evacuated pilgrims; the state machinery seems to forgotten local residents? What do you think so?

(With apt reply) Some attention should be paid on evacuating local residents too. The local administration should be in tune with the details of each local problem. The village level administration and mandal level administration can tab on the local problems and take instant action when a crisis of any sort arises. There was constant pressure from national and international level to rescue stranded pilgrims as early as possible. The bad weather hampered the rescue operations on
several occasions.

Narendra Modi, a senior leader of your party offered help in rebuilding Kedarnath temple which generated national level controversy? In your opinion, how temple should be re-build?

Narendra Modi came here in his own way and offered help. CMs of other states also offered help. Religious sentiments of people all over the country are attached to holy shrine and only experts of all concerned fields – religious leaders, environmentalists, geologists and social scientist can have final say on it. Politicians should be no discourse on this issue.

Senior leader Sushma Swaraj asked resignation of CM Vijay Bahuguna on the failure of state government on rescue operation and timely help to stranded pilgrims. What is your opinion?

No comments. She is a senior leader and can give her opinion. If you live co-operatively with nature, it will nurture you and lead you to higher level of life but if you go against nature, it can be destructive as we noticed in recent disaster. There should be no exploitation of nature, if nature survives, we do
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