A T E S T N E W S
Rescue operations on, 200 evacuated from Badrinath
DEHRADUN: After an initial delay due to unfavourable weather conditions, rescue work in Badrinath area of flood-hit Uttarakhand resumed on Saturday, and nearly 200 pilgrims have so far been evacuated from the shrine, officials said.
The operation, which is in its last leg and focuses largely on Badrinath, where nearly 1,400 people were reported to be stuck, is likely to be completed by Saturday evening if the weather permits, officials said.
Helicopters started flying sorties to evacuate the pilgrims from the area.
Efforts are also being made on war-footing to ensure supply of essential relief material to over 600 villages in Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Uttarkashi districts, which are cut off after the floods.
2,379 metric tonnes of wheat and 2,875 metric tonnes of rice have so far been dispatched to these villages.
The frequently changing weather is hampering work as the relief material can be supplied only by air, officials said.
However, all steps are being taken to ensure enough supply of food grains, kerosene and LPG to flood-hit villages, they said.
Road network in Uttarakhand has been badly damaged in the floods, with 259 roads damaged in Tehri, 139 in Dehradun, 132 in Uttarkashi, 110 in Chamoli and 71 in Rudraparayag district.
Meanwhile, over 200 families living along the banks of Bhagirathi river have been asked to move to safer places following a rise in water level.
The MeT department, however, has sent a word of assurance, and said the rise is mainly due to melting of glaciers with the sun showing up, and there is no flood threat.
Uttarakhand MeT department Director Anand Sharma said the snow in upper reaches was melting with the sun coming out, and this was increasing water level in rivers.
He asserted there is “nothing to worry about, as it will not create any flood situation.”
“We are just expecting light showers, but no heavy rains, nothing of that sort, just light showers here and there,” Mr. Sharma said.
Earlier, bad weather interrupted the rescue operations in worst-hit Kedarnath area, as intermittent rains in Kedarnath and Guptkashi hampered the process of clearing of debris and pulling out of bodies lying underneath.
In the worst-hit Kedarnath region, cremation of bodies is on in full swing to minimise chances of an epidemic outbreak.
Till now, last rites of 34 bodies has been performed and the cremation of 12 more bodies pulled out from the debris is likely to be conducted soon.
With the threat of an epidemic outbreak looming large due to decaying bodies lying under debris, and some also flowing down the Ganga, teams of doctors are being sent to affected districts to keep up vigil, officials said.
They will remain stationed in affected areas till the danger is fully averted, they said.
Meanwhile, a team of experts from Archaeological Survey of India will visit the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand to assess the quantum of damage caused by the flood fury and restoration required for the shrine.
The team of five experts from Dehradun and Delhi will be the part of the exercise for the revered temple which bore the brunt of floods and landslides triggered by the deluge in the hill state on June 16. — PTI
ASI team to visit Kedarnath shrine
DEHRADUN: A team of experts from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) will visit the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand to assess the quantum of damage caused by the flood fury and restoration required for the shrine.
A team of five experts from Dehradun and Delhi will be a part of the exercise for restoring the revered temple which bore the brunt of the floods and landslides triggered by the deluge in the hill State on June 16.
The state government had sought help from the ASI to assess the damage caused to the shrine.
Efforts are on to drop the team by air by Sunday, sources said.
As of now, the Kedarnath temple is not a protected site under the ASI.
The team is expected to suggest restoration measures needed for the temple and the surrounding areas, a senior official said.
The ASI team will submit its report to the Chief Minister. — PTI
Rahul favours 50 pc quota for women in AICC
NEW DELHI: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday vowed to ensure 50 per cent representation to women in AICC and other party wings as he held his first formal interaction with newly-appointed party office bearers, the team set up by him for the 2014 Lok Sabha poll.
“Gandhi talked about how to ensure 50 per cent representation to women in AICC...It’s not about reservation. It’s about their representation.
“When he observed that their (women) presence is not in the proportion it should be, he said the presence of women is less but it will definitely be 50 per cent in the coming two-three years,” party spokesperson Bhakta Charan Das told reporters after the meeting.
Ambika Soni is the only women among the 12 AICC general secretaries, while of the 44 secretaries only five are women.
Gandhi also made it categorically clear to the office bearers, mainly general secretaries and secretaries, that those who have been given responsibility will also be held accountable.
As the reshuffled AICC now wears a younger look with 52 being the average age of office bearers, he also chose the occasion to remind the party leaders that youths should move forward by respecting seniors and taking the help of their experience.
The statement is seen as a move by Mr. Gandhi to allay misgivings, if any, among the old guards in the party and some sort of assurance that senior leaders won’t be overlooked.
Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress vice president emphasised on the need to connect the party with masses and directed party leaders to focus on strengthening the organisation more than anything else.
The issue of alliances was not discussed in the meeting, a party leader said, adding that there was no mention of any other party or its leader during the interaction session that lasted for more than two hours.
Asked whether Narendra Modi was discussed in the meeting, Das said, “Do you think we take interest in such things? We do not give importance to him. We totally ignore him.”
The newcomers thanked Gandhi for putting his trust in them and giving them responsibilities in the organisation.
“Trust begets trust and we should trust people,” he said.
The Congress vice president has in his last several meetings with the party workers had laid great emphasis on working together.
To a question whether Gandhi taking most of the party building initiatives is an indication that the command is now in his hand rather than Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Das said, “Sonia Gandhi is Congress president. She is respectable for all and our top most.”
The meeting came at a time when Assembly elections in four states — Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi
— are on the cards this year.
Besides, AICC secretaries and general secretaries, the meeting was also attended by party treasurer Motilal Vora.
Prior to this meeting, Gandhi had held one-to-one interaction with general secretaries in-charge of various states, especially the poll-bound states.
Party leaders have been insisting that Gandhi has been impressing upon party men to concentrate on building up the organisation and not to focus on other issues, including alliances. — PTI
Cong seeks Munde's disqualification from Lok Sabha
NEW DELHI: Congress on Saturday demanded disqualification of senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde from the Lok Sabha for his remarks that he had spent Rs 8 crore on his election campaign in the last general elections.
Party leader Sanjay Nirupam said Munde's comments showed that he violated laws governing election expenditure, and Election Commission must take note of it.
The expenditure limit on the Lok Sabha election is Rs 25 lakh and he spent a whopping Rs 7.75 crore more than the limit, Nirupam said, demanding stern action against the BJP's deputy leader in Lok Sabha.
Nirupam, who is an MP from North Mumbai, said EC should initiate proceedings for his disqualification.
"I will urge EC to call Munde for enquiry and take action against him," he told reporters outside Congress headquarters in New Delhi.
Munde had made the claim at a book release function in Mumbai on June 27, as he called for state funding of elections to curb black money.
He dared EC to take against him and said he would not mind disqualification as next elections were only few months away.
Nirupam also supported the move to keep political parties out of the RTI Act purview, saying that otherwise, it would swamp parties with frivolous and unnecessary RTI queries.
"Somebody will ask why this secretary was removed or that district president was axed. These things will serve no national interest," he said.
The party spokesperson said there were already enough checks and balances in place to regulate funding and expenditure of political parties. — PTI
Suryanelli sex scandal
case: Victim’s plea against Kurien dismissed
Thodupuzha: In a major relief to Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, the Sessions Court in Thodupuzha on Saturday dismissed a petition filed by the victim in the Suryanelli sex scandal case seeking inclusion of the Congress leader in the case.
The victim in the 17-year-old case had moved the court against Kurien based on the ‘revelation’ of the sole convict in the case Dharmarajan, who had claimed in a media interview a few months back that he had taken Kurien in a car to a guest house at Kumily where the girl was lodged.
Dharmarajan had later retracted the claim in the court through an affidavit stating he had never met Kurien and he was in an inebriated state when he made the charge through the media.
Sessions Judge Abraham Mathew in his order held that the victim’s plea for inclusion of Kurien in the sex scandal case was not maintainable.
The victim filed the private review petition on the basis of the lone convict S.S. Dharmarajan’s ‘revelation’ that he had taken
Kurien to the guest house.
A few days after his interview to a channel, Dharmarajan was arrested from Karnataka after absconding for several years by jumping bail.
However, Dharmarajan had on May 28 retracted his statement in an affidavit filed before the court.
Two other accused in the case, Jamal and Unnikrishnan Nair, whom Mr. Dharmarajan had earlier claimed to be witnesses to the incident, had contested his claim.
The victim moved the sessions court after the Peerumade First Class Judicial Magistrate Court rejected her plea for a fresh inquiry in the case based on Mr. Dharmarajan’s statement.
The 1996 case came into focus recently after the Supreme Court invalidated the Kerala High Court’s verdict acquitting 35 accused in the case.
The girl from Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala was abducted in January 1996 and was taken from place to place across Kerala and sexually exploited by different persons. — PTI