Each time the sound of a flying chopper,carrying relief material,is heard in the ravaged land of Uttarakhand,people waiting in flocks rush towards it in hope of some succour but they return empty handed as the stuff is airdropped at places rendered inaccessible by breached roads. People in scores of villages on hills are faced with the same situation,as inspite of sighting the foodstuff dropped from the choppers they cannot collect it with the access roads still blocked or cut off.
Contrary to government claims of hundreds of metric tonnes of essentials airdropped in rain hit areas,relief material is yet to reach villages cut off from the roads with major highways still badly damaged in the worst hit Rudraprayag,Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts. In Kheeron village near Joshimath on Badrinath highway in Chamoli district people have taken refuge in the caves to escape the fury of the swirling waters of Alaknanda. The situation in over 40 villages of Uttarkashi is no different.
Padamsingh Chauhan,a resident of the Kheeron,says over two weeks after the tragedy when the choppers began doing sorties in the area their hopes were kindled. Though foodstuff and other relief material like kerosene were airdropped by the helicopters,they fell over a huge rock that stands at a place where they cannot go in the absence of a road. The only relief in this state of deprivation is some of the fields where the crop of potatoes still stands. “We are eating fried potatoes from the fields to sustain ourselves,” Madho Singh,another resident of the village says.
Pandukeshwar and Lambagar gram sabhas in Chamoli district besides Urgam valley are still totally cut off,and all the connecting roads in Pindar valley are damaged since June 16 when flash floods and cloudbursts struck Uttarakhand,flattening homes,sweeping away villages and claiming hundreds of lives. The situation is similar in Pilang,Jaurav,Syaba,Lonthru,Bayana,Salu,Salang,Bhukki,Sarnaul,Chaptari,Bakrali and dozens of more villages in Ganga ghati and Yamuna ghati areas of Uttarkashi district where relief is yet to reach the affected people.
24-25 villages in Niti valley of Chamoli district bordering China remain cut off and distribution of relief material there is one of the biggest challenges being faced by the government at present due to breached roads and bad weather hampering chopper operations. However,state government claims there is no shortage of food in any affected area. Wheat stock of 10043.3 metric tonnes,rice stock of 12176.8 MT,sugar of 837.3 MT is available in the rain hit areas,an official release said. In addition to this,344.2 kilo litres of kerosene and 48943 LPG cylinders are available at the district level. Apart from this,more than 309 trucks carrying relief material have been dispatched to affected districts.
9.4 lakh litres of diesel and 4.76 lakh litres of petrol have been made available to the affected areas. Rs 103 crore have been released by the state government for relief operations,it said. District Magistrates have been given a free hand to spend the amount on relief operations. Chamoli District Magistrate S A Murugesan said about 130 metric tonnes of rice,100 metric tonnes wheat flour,20 metric tonnes sugar and over 50 thousand litres kerosene have been made available in 38 villages of the district in choppers despite bad weather affecting their flight from places. However,he admitted that relief material is yet to be distributed in about 20 villages in the interiors of the district even on the eighteenth day of the tragedy.
With a large number of routes,including Srinagar-Rudraprayag road closed,the administration is depending exclusively on helicopters for distribution of relief material. Trucks carrying relief are unloaded at five nodal points including Goachar,Karnaprayag,Joshimath,Gopeshwar and Gwaldam from where the relief materials are being dispatched in choppers to affected areas.