Highlighting the State’s lack of preparedness and functional ‘paralysis’ in the face of the massive tragedy in the form of flash floods that struck Kedarnath in 2013, the Uttarakhand High Court has issued mandatory directives to the State to deal with such exigencies and also to maintain the ecological sanctity of the area.
Among other things, the court has directed the State to form five special teams to trace the dead still buried under the rubble.
A division bench comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Alok Singh held that the issue was of ‘great public importance’ and deliberated on failure of state machinery to deal with the disaster while referring to delayed rescue operations that increased the miseries manifold.
The court held, ‘The State machinery was paralyzed. It never rose to the occasion. The rescue operations were delayed, which further compounded the miseries of the helpless people trapped in the area. The State should have managed the disaster effectively and properly by involving all the agencies like Army, Air Force, National Disaster Relief Force, Paramilitary Forces and local Police at the earliest.’
The directions came on a petition by Mr. Ajay Gautam, highlighting the miseries of the people trapped in Kedarnath valley in June, 2013, the month when the area received an unprecedented heavy rainfall leading to a monumental loss of life and property.
The bench issued the following time-bound directives to ensure disaster preparedness and also preserving the ecological balance of the area:
The court also called upon the state to endeavour to protect the environment and safeguard the forest and wildlife as per Article 48-A of the Constitution of India. ‘It is the fundamental duty of all of us to protect and improve the National Forests like wildlife, as is provided under Article 51-A(g) of the Constitution,’ the court held.
Read the Judgment here.