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Uttarakhand relief material rots without oversight

Source : BUSINESS_STANDARD
Last Updated: Sun, Jun 30, 2013 22:02 hrs
IAF takes all possible steps to rescue flood victims in Uttarakhand

Guptkashi: A heap of water bottles outside the inter-college here, turned into a relief camp, gives one the impression that people in the area must be drinking a lot of bottled water. A closer look reveals most bottles have not even been opened.

The camp is a live example of all that is wrong with the flood relief work in Uttarakhand - lack of coordination, thoughtless allocation and a non-existent distribution mechanism. As the place is largely run by government clerks from sundry departments and teachers, with little expertise in logistics, a lot of forms get filled and entries are made in registers but hundreds go hungry even as relief materials rot in the rain.


It is not just the water bottles. Bundles of clothes, including blankets, packed food and rusks have filled the classrooms of the inter-college.

"Ration, vegetables and other materials keep coming in. There is hardly any space to keep them. And, there is no way to take these to places where they need them," said Surendra Singh Rawat, a government official who works at the camp.

Several villages in Kalimath and Ukhimath, the two mountains on the other side of the river, have been badly affected. At least 100 people from these villages, working in Kedarnath and hotels enroute on the day of the disaster, have died. Floods have washed away the bridges connecting these villages.

"There has not been a single casualty in Guptkashi town. But it's people from here who are collecting the relief materials whereas the real needy ones suffer silently," said Ganesh Saumhyal, a central government official who is not part of the camp.

Jai Singh, an elderly local from Kunjetti village, has come to collect relief at the camp. "I have come here after a lot of difficulties." There is no road, not even a footpath. Nine people have died in Kunjetti, he said. Some women from the nearby Nala village have come to collect relief. "What will we do with buns and biscuits. Some flour and rice would have helped," one of them said.

Shriom Arjav of Delhi-based Yamuna Mukthi Abhiyaan alleges large-scale mismanagement at the camp. "The staff here take all the real stuff away and give the poor people biscuit packets and other packed food. I have worked in a logistics company. I offered to help. But nobody listens."

Rameshwar, the Grampradhan of Pehli pasalat village who had come to collect relief materials, said: "My village is seven km away. It's been two weeks we have got nothing. We lost six people in Kedarnath."

On allegations that even some grampradhans are guilty of cornering relief materials or of partiality in allocation, he said: "You can come with me and see for yourself. The poor should get their money."

Harak Singh Rawat, additional district magistrate from Dehradun, who is in charge of the relief camp, said he was doing his best the circumstances.

"There is no local staff here. We are managing with some people who have come from elsewhere. While people blame about relief material not reaching, nobody has a viable solution how to take these away."

Rawat said he had asked relief vehicles from outside to be redirected from Nagjagai, about 10 km from here. "Let them go till the road. Then we will see. Here there is no space left. We are also trying to arrange some horses and mules to carry the relief."Harak Singh Rawat, additional district magistrate from Dehradun, who is in charge of the relief camp, said he was doing his best given the circumstances. "There is no local staff here. We are managing with some people who have come from elsewhere. While people blame about relief materials not reaching, nobody has a viable solution how to take these away."

Rawat said he had asked relief vehicles coming from outside to be redirected from Nagjagai, about 10 km from here. "Let them go till the road. Then we will see. Here there is no space left. We are also trying to arrange some horses and mules to carry the relief."

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