Help Himachal like you did in Bhuj and Kedarnath: CM Sukhu to union govt

Two central teams have visited Himachal Pradesh to assess damages, where 367 deaths have been reported from landslides, floods and mudslides, and about 12,000 houses damaged since 24 June

Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu in Jadon village of Solan district, where at least seven people were killed in a cloudburst (photo: IANS)
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu in Jadon village of Solan district, where at least seven people were killed in a cloudburst (photo: IANS)

NH Digital

His generation in Himachal Pradesh is staring at the biggest natural disaster in the state, said Himachal Pradesh chief minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu on Friday. Speaking on TV, the chief minister said he is deeply thankful to the people of the state for joining the relief and rehabilitation process, and taking on the calamity unitedly. Despite disruptions, he said, there were no unruly disturbances reported from anywhere.  

Two central teams, he disclosed, have visited the state to assess damages in the state and he expects the union government to announce a special relief package soon. Himachal Pradesh, he said, expects the same treatment from the union government that was extended to the victims of the earthquake at Bhuj in Gujarat, and the cloudburst in Kedarnath. 

Sukhu has met the Prime Minister and other ministers in New Delhi and pleaded for a special relief package and a revision in the relief manual for hill states. The current manual, he claimed, provides for a central assistance of Rs 1.25 lakh per kilometre for damaged roads and Rs 1.30 lakh for fully or partially damaged houses. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), in contrast, spent Rs 32 crore per kilometre on the Dwarka Expressway (Rs 250 crore per kilometre on a short stretch in Haryana).  

His first priorities were to save as many lives as people, evacuating people from unsafe houses and localities, Sukhu said. It has been a challenge to keep repairing road links and employees, engineers and officers are working round the clock to restore connectivity, he added. If the rains stop by the end of August, road links will be fully restored by the middle of September, he hoped. The next challenge was to save as much of the state’s apple crop as possible and ensure it reaches wholesale markets.     

With most of the state experiencing the highest rainfall in the last 40 years or more, Sukhu conceded that the rains have dealt a major blow to the small hill state, and said it will take "at least a year" to restore the damaged infrastructure alone.

The state, which depends on revenue from tourism, has been devastated and the state government will lose substantial revenue as hotel rooms are empty and sales in restaurants, dhabas and wine shops have plummeted. 

The full extent of the damage will be known only once reports from interior villages are compiled, Sukhu said. and added that authorities will have to "re-assess strategies related to dams, highways, tourism and buildings". He appealed to the rest of the country to stand with the people in Himachal Pradesh, and to donate generously to relief funds.   

On Friday, there was some let up in the rain, but reports of roads and highways developing cracks, bridges breaking, and more landslides continued to come in from various parts of the state. Anni, a town 150 kilometres from Kullu, saw a commercial building come down on Thursday. On Friday, reports came in that the Mandi-Kullu four-lane highway had been closed after parts of it caved in.  

Though one-way traffic, which has stalled vehicles at several places, and alternate routes kept the supply of essential goods moving, several villages are still cut off and awaiting relief. Sukhu said helicopters would be air-dropping food and other essentials whenever the weather permitted. 

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