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Kullu tragedy: Virbhadra to write to LS speaker

Onkar Singh in New Delhi | July 28, 2003 10:05 IST

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh will take up with Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi the matter relating to the number of deaths that took place following the July 16 cloudburst in Sheelagarh village, Kullu district.

He told rediff.com on Monday that he would write a letter to the speaker explaining the relief and rehabilitation measures taken by the state government.

"I want to get the records corrected. How is it possible that when only 30 persons have been killed (assuming six missing have also died), the Lok Sabha is told that more then 150 died in the tragedy?" Singh asked.

In a report, rediff.com had pointed out the discrepancies between the statements read out by the chief minister in the assembly and the speaker in the Lok Sabha on July 21.

While Singh told the assembly that only 24 people were killed, Joshi put the toll at 150.

"They should have got in touch with us in Shimla and verified the number of deaths. After all I am only one phone call away," Singh said.

The chief minister's woes do not end there.

His colleague and archrival, Vidya Stokes, appointed a three-member committee to probe into the incident.

A member of that committee had said in Kullu that more then 150 people had been killed. This embarrassed Singh further.

"Who is Mrs Stokes to appoint a committee?" he asked.

"If at all a committee had been appointed then it should have given its findings to the state government and not to the media. Mrs Stokes told me that the Congress high command had directed her to appoint a committee. I spoke to Congress leaders in Delhi and they told me that no such directive had been given to her. She has vested interests in inflating the figures," he claimed.

According to Singh, he has released Rs 50 lakh for relief, rehabilitation and restoration of the roads that had been washed away in the disaster.

"In hill states such tragedies are common," he said.

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