NEW DELHI: Apart from bad weather and difficult terrain, rescue teams in Uttarakhand are also troubled by calls from influential people to rescue their kin first. Sources in the agencies engaged in rescue work said on an average, over 50 such calls were received every day from politicians, bureaucrats and other government officials even though their kin were not caught in an emergency situation. “Most of these people are trapped in Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri where hardly any damage has happened.
These places have merely been cut off but there are enough supplies and people can survive for days,” an officer overseeing rescue work in Uttarakhand said. Being peak pilgrimage season, families of several politicians and bureaucrats too have been on a visit to the Char Dham and have been trapped at various places. As they have connections and can reach senior officials in the home department or directly in the forces, there is pressure to rescue them first.
“We are receiving messages that such and such person is staying in a particular room in a certain hotel at Badrinath or Yamunotri and needs to rescued urgently. If you are in a hotel room, getting food and sleep, why do you need to be rescued urgently? We can understand the panic among family members caught in such situations, but there are people dying in Kedarnath valley with no food, water or shelter. They are our priority,” the officer said. Sources said rescue agencies have been politely declining many, trying to make them understand the situation.
“While many understand, others try to pull strings but we are dealing with it,” another officer said, adding that kin of certain politicians had to be evacuated on priority basis due to pressure from above. Forces say they are trying to help whoever they can if they come to know of their trouble. “This is not to say that people from influential families must not approach us if they are really in trouble.
But if I have a request of looking for an 80-year-old woman who can’t walk and has been separated from her family competing with that of a person living in a hotel, where should I direct my resources,” the officer asked. He added that calls from influential people were adding to the stress of personnel engaged in rescue work.