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Rescue in full swing,4,700 pilgrims reach home: Punjab

Sukhbir asks state DGP to send two special platoons to Uttarakhand

Written by Express News Service | Chandigarh | Updated: April 11, 2014 5:25:28 pm

Facing flak from Congress for allegedly making false claims about rescuing stranded Sikh pilgrims in flood-hit Uttarakhand,the Punjab government on Sunday said rescue operations were on in full swing and nearly 4,700 pilgrims from Punjab,who were evacuated from Kedarnath,Badrinath and Govind Ghat Uttarakhand,have reached home.

On June 21,the Punjab Congress had demanded an apology from the state government for allegedly not only failing to make any effective efforts to rescue Punjabis stranded in Uttrakhand,but also lying to the people that their chopper had rescued 300 Punjabis “when the choppers remained stranded in Dehradun”.

Party spokesperson Sukhpal Singh Khaira had claimed that while the chief minister and his deputy,Sukhbir Singh Badal,were holidaying in the UK,they had said through an official press release that the deputy CM was monitoring the rescue operation.

A spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office late on Sunday evening said Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal himself was personally reviewing the progress of the relief and rehabilitation process and was in constant touch with civil and Army authorities in Uttarakhand.

“The government had stationed two teams,which are monitoring rescue operations. As many as 95 buses — 71 of Punjab Roadways and 24 of Punjab Police — have so far transported nearly 4,700 pilgrims from Uttarakhand to Punjab… They were sent homes in private taxis at the state administration’s expense,” the spokesperson said.

He added: “The Punjab government had hired the services of private helicopters to rescue pilgrims from Uttrakhand,especially from Govind Ghat,Badrinath and Kedarnath. The helicopter has so far made 66 sorties resulting in the evacuation of 212 passengers besides sending more than 400 kg of relief material,food and water…”

A total of 60 mini buses of the Punjab Police had been dispatched from Rishikesh to Joshimath on Saturday and 36 mini buses were pressed into service to Joshimath on Sunday.

“These vehicles were slightly delayed due to a blockade following landslide between Chamoli and Srinagar. Subsequently,these are following an alternate route. As per available information at 5 pm today,no pilgrim was awaiting evacuation neither at Joshimath and nor any transportation from Rishikesh,” said the CMO.

Meanwhile,Sukhbir has directed the state DGP to immediately send two special platoons — comprising 60 policemen and 40 drivers — help to evacuate pilgrims stranded beyond Joshimath. These platoons would also carry ambulances and 15 Xylo or Scorpio vehicles,two canters and 10 mountaineering,search and rescue trained personnel.

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