By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 1 Dec: Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) Chief Karan Mahara, Leader of the Opposition Yashpal Arya, and former Chief Minister Harish Rawat addressed a joint press conference at the Congress Bhawan, here, today. Mahara and Harish Rawat informed the media persons that the top leadership of the Congress party has decided to honour the rat miners who helped rescue the 41 workers trapped inside the Silkyara tunnel in district Uttarkashi for 17 days. Mahara added that the Pradesh Congress Committee expresses its gratitude to its top leadership for this decision. He revealed that, as per the instructions of the top leadership, he has requested all the party MLAs to contribute a month’s salary as contribution to the rat miners. All the party MLAs, including Yashpal Arya, have welcomed the decision and agreed to contribute. This would be a gift to the rat miners from the party leaders for their great work.
Mahara also thanked Varun Adhikari, who had suggested that rat miners be hired to save the lives of the trapped workers. He accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of claiming credit for everything and turning every incident into an event. Even the rescue operation at Silkyara has been turned into an event that the BJP is celebrating. He said that, in case the BJP government is taking credit for the success of the Silkyara Tunnel Mission, then it cannot shirk the responsibility of 41 labourers getting trapped in the tunnel for 17 days. He said that the incidents of Raini, Joshimath and Silkyara are the result of ignoring the opinions of geologists and scientists. If the government had learnt a lesson from the incidents of Raini and Joshimath, the Silkyara disaster could have been avoided.
Former Chief Minister Harish Rawat said that all future projects in the Himalayan region should be stopped and brought under professional ecological scrutiny. Saluting the spirit of the workers trapped in the Silkyara tunnel, Rawat said that big questions being raised in the wake of the tunnel collapse need to be answered so that such accidents can be avoided in future. He said that the Silkyara incident has once again highlighted in very clear terms the complexity and sensitivity of the Himalayan ecosystem. Rawat thanked the Congress leaders and MLAs for their decision to donate their one month’s salary to the rat mining team which became the solution to the crisis in this time of disaster.
Leader of the Opposition Yashpal Arya emphasised that the incident of Silkyara tunnel accident has once again exposed with complete clarity the fragility and complexity of the Western Himalayan ecosystem. The Silkyara incident has also exposed the failure of the environmental assessment process in planning, design and implementation of civil construction and other projects in the region. He said that the tunnel project is part of the Char Dham project. Construction work was allocated in such a way as to completely avoid environmental impact assessment, but workers’ lives were put at risk despite reports that the tunnel lacked widely accepted safety features. He said that a thorough audit of all the projects under construction in Uttarakhand needed to be carried.
Former PCC Chief and former MLA Ganesh Godiyal said that the Silkyara incident was the result of gross negligence of safety norms and of the inexperience of the construction company, but the government is working to save the company responsible for the incident. He said that it should be clear to all that the company was responsible for the Chamoli accident in which 15 workers lost their lives. He said that the party demands that Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami shows respect to Uttarakhandiyat and show courage by taking action against that company, no matter how high a position the owners of that company may be holding.
Expressing gratitude to all the MLAs and party leadership, former MLA Vijaypal Sajwan said that the party has decided to honour the brave men of rat mining who saved the lives of the workers trapped in the tunnel. He said that Uttarakhand has faced disasters like Raini, Varunavat, and the lesson to be learnt from is that development should not result in destruction.
State spokesperson Garima Mahara Dasouni, Shishpal Singh Bisht and social media advisor Amarjeet Singh were also present at the press conference, while several party leaders including some party MLAS were present in virtual mode.