Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat on Monday sought to absolve himself of responsibility for human remains being found in the Kedar Valley three years after the 2013 disaster, putting the blame squarely on his predecessor Vijay Bahuguna on whose orders search operations had been winded up. “Those shouting from rooftops about the state government’s failure to carry out a proper search operation should pose this question to the then CM who stopped the combing and not me who resumed it,” Rawat told reporters here without taking names.
The first round of combing operations was launched and concluded during the tenure of Rawat’s predecessor Bahuguna, who is now in the BJP. Rawat said it was strange that combing operations meant to look for bodies in the wake of the massive tragedy were winded up without giving much thought to the possibility of skeletal remains still lying underneath lakhs of tonnes of debris brought about by the flash floods.
The Chief Minister also took credit for the latest recovery of human skeletal remains from a forest adjoining atrek route between Triyuginarayan and Kedarnath, saying they were first sighted by a team of trekkers who had undertaken the expedition as part of a programme called ‘Hito Pahad’ conceived by the state government.
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He said a team constituted under the leadership of Garhwal IG Sanjay Gunjyal has so far recovered 31 skeletons from the area which are being consigned to flames amid necessary Hindu rituals after formalities like DNA sampling. He said the ongoing combing operation will be carried out
at Triyuginarayn and areas close to it for the next ten days.
However, the Chief Minister made it clear that considering the massive scale of the tragedy it would never be possible for any government to confidently say that this was the last human skeleton recovered.