Two months before the Char Dham pilgrimage began,the Uttarakhand government held a series of meetings to review arrangements. It invited police,BRO and the departments of health,food,tourism,and civil supplies to the consultations but left out the apex Disaster Mitigation and Management Centre.
The DMMC is an autonomous institute under the states Disaster Management Department.
The government officials concerned stopped inviting us to the preparatory meetings about two years ago, a source in the DMMC said.
Yashpal Arya,minister for disaster management,admitted that it was a mistake on part of the government to not involve the DMMC.
Government officials,however,said the preparatory meetings are just a formality. The focus of all such meetings remains management of vehicular movement. Commercial vehicles,which are registered in other states,are a good source of income for the state government, an official said.
Some officials said the government was more interested in the income from the pilgrimage than the safety of the pilgrims. The state government had even started charging Rs 1,000 per landing from the private helicopters that flew pilgrims from Phata or Guptakashi to the Kedarnath temple, an official said.
Though it wasnt part of the preparations,the DMMC had deployed 22 persons trained by along the pilgrimage route. We impart training in search and rescue to to youth across the state as a part of our disaster mitigation and management programme, the source said.