Himachal high court seeks affidavit on cloudburst victims


By: ML Verma

Shimla (July 27): Himachal Pradesh High Court today sought reply over death of eight labouerers in a cloudburst at Dhoondi near Manali recently while herring a petion which alleged that lives could have been saved if there was a cloudburst warnning.

The high court directed the state government, Border Roads Organization, DC Kullu, SDM Manali, M/s Garg & Garg Construction Company, secretary (labour), SP Kullu, meteorological department and the chief engineer, Rohtang Tunnel Project, to file separate affidavits in the matter of deaths of several labourers due to flash
floods near a construction site near Manali on July 20, 2011.

The orders of the division bench comprising Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Sanjay Karol came on the petition of Jagdish Vats, alleging that lives of several labourers could have been saved had the administrative machinery been alert and prepared to provide necessary relief and rescue equipment and had the state government implemented the proposal from the MET department to install Doppler radars.

The petitioner submitted that flash floods had struck a construction site where makeshift sheds and tents were provided by the Contractor to accommodate the labourers engaged in construction of a snow gallery to connect the Rohtang tunnel from the road leading to the tunnel. He said that most projects in HP were vulnerable to natural
calamities, but the concerned authorities rise from deep slumber only when a disaster occurs and then go again into slumber mode.

He also submitted that the DC had claimed that instructions had been issued to the companies not to construct labour colonies in areas prone to such natural calamities, thus the companies were flouting labour laws.

He also submitted that the Meteorological department had advised the state government to install Doppler radars, which can detect various parameters of weather change up to an aerial distance of 150 km, but due to red-tapism the project had not seen the light of the day even after 6 years of the proposal.

The petitioner prayed that immediate steps be taken to remove labour colonies from hazardous locations all over the state and to shift such colonies to safer locations and to ensure strict implementation of labour laws.

The Court observed that the sad plight of poor labourers is clearly disturbing and tragic and therefore, directed the respondents to file affidavit regarding preventive measures taken in such situations, efficacy of such measures, emergency relief operation and future course of action to avoid situations. The Court also directed the chief secretary to make clear the steps taken for installation of Doppler radars.

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ML Verma is a Senior journalist, with more than a decade of experience of active reporting for electronic media, news agencies and fast paced online media.

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