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Jul 02, 2013 at 01:21am IST

Uttarakhand floods: CM says he didn't fail in handling the calamity, won't quit

New Delhi: Hitting out at senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj for her comment that the state government failed to handle the tragedy caused by the floods, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna said it is a "very irresponsible statement made by the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, without even being aware of the magnitude of the problem and the efforts which were made by the state administration, the Army and other agencies".

"I think other states have also faced such calamities, and I don't think ever such a demand was raised or made by any political leader of this country," he added.

Denying Sushma's allegations that the state government took a lot of time to respond to the calamity, the Uttarakhand Chief Minister said, "The calamity struck us on the night of June 16 and 17, and a warning on the 18. The agencies were already in motion and 37,000 km of area was affected. The Army, the Air Force, the NDRF, the state police had to coordinate and when the calamity of such a nature, you do take some time to respond. Even in the event of a war."

Indirectly lashing out at the Met Department, Bahuguna said "when there is a warning of heavy rain, people stay in their houses. The state is not evacuated because of that".

"The Chief Secretary has given a response to that and I would stick by his statement which he has given. A prediction of heavy rains is very common in hills. You have to be very specific and the area has to be very specific. There was no indication of any cloudburst or any lake over flowing. You see, when there is a warning of heavy rain, people stay in their houses, but it is not that the state is evacuated. If I predict heavy rains in Shimla or Delhi, people will not go out," Bahuguna said.

Stressing for a need to develop a system by which natural calamities can be predicted, the Uttrakhand Chief Minister said, "I'm in the middle of rescue and rehabilitation, but we can examine all these and find out what better ways we should have to meet such situations. But this is a calamity and the day we start predicting cloudburst tsunamis and earthquakes, I think we will capture the nature."

Refusing that his government played politics over the tragedy by not accepting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's offer to provide choppers for evacuation people from the state, Bahuguna said, "The offer was that he wanted to send his own helicopter to the affected areas to pick up people from Gujarat. Now such request came to me from other state chief ministers as well. Now where people are stuck, we can't divide them or segregate them into states. All the rescue operations where controlled and monitored by the Army, Air Force and the civil administration. So, we had given them tokens, and people were rescued the choppers by the numbers allocated to them. I can't allow a parallel rescue operation be conducted."

"I think she (Swaraj) is misinformed; Mr Modi was kind enough to come here and meet me. I know him very well, he has offered me Rs 5 crore and I have sent him two letters of thanks. He has said that he is willing to send two teams of doctors, I had said if and when required I will ask for it. The only thing which he requested was that he wanted Gujarat to build up the temple. And I said that this temple of Kedarnath is our identity and our pride and the Uttarakhand government is competent to build up the temple in consultation with the ASI and other environmentalist and saints," Bahuguna added.

When asked why Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was allowed to use the helipad when other leaders were denied, the Uttarachand Chief Minster said, "When these helipads were being used for evacuation and rescue, we didn't allow anybody to land including the Home Minister of India. He was not allowed to land because the helipads of Kedhar valley were being used for evacuation. Mr Rajanath of the BJP, the Prime Minister, all they had was an aerial survey. I was the only person who was landing on these helipads because I wanted to monitor. When Rahul Gandhi came here, he drove from Dehradun to Gourcher, then he took a sortie. When he landed on that particular helipad the entire aerial operations in the Kedar valley had come to a standstill. So, it was not being hampered."

"Media is going, general public is going, so if a leader comes and he wants to land at a particular point where no rescue operations are going on, you should not take... as if the state government went out the way please one and not to please other, even the Home Minister of India didn't land when the rescue operation was going on," he added.

When asked if he was denying the claim that Rahul forced the dislocation of ITBP camp, and that he was given a special treatment, the Congress leader said, "I myself went to the ITBP camp because of the entire operation of rescue of Badrinath were being carried off from Gauchar. In Gauchar there is a huge ITBP complex, I used that complex because when you go to Gauchar, that's the only place you can monitor, so no of leaders, my ministers have used the ITBP facilities. If any leader, he is a member of Parliament , of course, so if an MP goes and uses a paramilitary facility in an area where rescue work is going on, you should not read between the lines and say this is a particular favour or a rule being bent."

Bahuguna further said that the total number of complaints of missing people from other states is 3068 and the total number of dead bodies which are visible as if now are between 500-600.

"There is a very intensive inquiry being carried out. We will wait for 30 days for the compensation, if a person is not found the respective state will send me a figure, my government is collecting the figures, the people who will not come home will be presumed dead and I will pay them compensation," the Chief Minister added.

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