After returning from Himachal, Priyanka urges PM Modi to declare destruction as natural disaster

IANS Photo

New Delhi, September 15 (IANS) After returning from two-day visit of the rain and flood-battered Himachal Pradesh and assessing the damages, Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the destruction in the hill state due to rains and landslides a national disaster.

Priyanka Gandhi had visited several districts of Himachal Pradesh, including Kullu, Manali, Shimla, Solan and others during her two-day visit to the state on September 12 and 13 and also interacted with the people there to discuss their problems and issues and take stock of the relief operation being carried by the state government.

In her letter to the Prime Minister, she highlighted how the people of the ‘devbhoomi’ hill state are true and hard working, and even the women, businessmen, farmers and youths hold high self-esteem.

"Today, the people of the same state are facing one of the biggest tragedies in the form of landslides and floods, as it has destroyed many things," she said. Citing her meeting with the affected people from Shimla, Kullu, Manali and Mandi, she said that it pained her to see the destruction in all parts of the state.

"Till now 428 people have lost their lives in this tragedy where there are many such people who have lost all of their family members. Even children are in the list of the dead who had come to offer prayers at a temple in Shimla in the early morning on the occasion of last Monday of the holy month of Saawan."

She also highlighted that over 16,000 animals and birds have died, in which 10,000 birds are from the poultry farms while more than 6,000 cows and buffaloes have died.

"More than 13,000 houses have been damaged fully or partially in the state. Even the National Highway connecting Shimla and Parwanu, and the Kullu-Manali-Leh National Highway have been completely damaged at many locations. Whereas many roads of the state have also been damaged either partially or fully and the state has incurred loss of thousands of crores."

Priyanka Gandhi also said that the state government has been trying hard to deal with the destruction caused due to the landslides and flood like situation and she has also seen people of the state working shoulder to shoulder with the state government to rebuild the state and face the challenges.

The Congress leader highlighted in many places many of the people were giving ‘shram daan’, while many others were collecting funds on their own and helping in the relief works.

"I was impressed with the solidarity of the people and I am writing this letter to you in the same spirit. While facing this disaster, when the people of the state were looking for help with hope towards everyone, at the same time, the Central government reduced the import duty from the foreign apples, which is like a double whammy for the apple growers of the state as it will hurt them financially. In my opinion, it should not have been done during these tough times whereas if the Central government would have given them some financial assistance then it would have helped them," she said.

"I appeal to you that this disaster should be declared a national disaster like the Kedarnath tragedy of 2013 and financial assistance should be provided to the victims and the state so that the people of Himachal get relief and the state can be properly rebuilt.

“Today the whole country is coming forward and standing with Himachal. I have full hope that you will take appropriate steps to help while being sensitive towards the people of Himachal," she added in her letter.

Several districts of Himachal Pradesh faced a flood like situation in July and August this year and due to heavy rains and landslides in several areas, many homes were completely damaged. The state government has earlier said that it has faced losses worth Rs 12,000 crore and also demanded for a special package for the state.