Accusing the Bahuguna government of being in a "state of slumber" even after the June calamity had hit Uttarakhand, former Chief Minister B C Khanduri today said hundreds of precious lives could have been saved if the authorities had responded to the situation in time.
"First the state government ignored the MeT office warnings of heavy rains on June 14 and then it slept over the tragedy which occurred on June 17 leaving hundreds of helpless pilgrims to fend for themselves and perish," he told reporters here on his return from a visit to affected areas.
Citing accounts of eyewitnesses to the deluge in Kedarghati which was the worst hit, the BJP leader said for several days after the tragedy struck, pilgrims continued to run uphill in search of shelter to save themselves, which was the wrong thing to do.
"There was no arrangement by the state government for several days after the tragedy to stop stranded pilgrims unaware of the geography of the area from doing so and guide them to safety. This led to many more deaths, especially in Kedar valley which was the worst hit," Kahnduri said.
"If a state of emergency was declared and the government machinery had sprung into action immediately after the calamity, damage to life and property could have been much less than it actually was," he said.
"How can the government of a state where natural calamities are common be so indifferent," Khanduri asked.
He said despite over a month after the tragedy there are still many villages in the state where losses are yet to be assessed not to speak of payment of compensation to the victims.
Accusing the Centre of not allocating funds to the BRO, Khanduri said if it had the funds it could have repaired the damaged roads faster.
The Centre had not given a single penny to BRO during the current fiscal. However, after the BJP raised the issue, funds worth about Rs 50 crore were allocated to the BRO, he claimed.
"It is more than 30 days since the tragedy occurred in the state but all the major roads including Kedarnath, Badrinath and Gangotri highways are still closed," he said.
He also asked the Centre to show more sensitivity towards the flood-hit people of Uttarakhand and give wheat and rice to them at the lowest rates recommended in the Food Security Bill.
The BJP leader also accused the Centre of providing wheat and rice to Uttarakhand at rates higher than the ones in Uttar Pradesh.
"This shows the gap between what the Congress governments both in the state and at the Centre say and do," he said.