Uttarakhand High Court issues notice on PIL seeking compensation for affected families in Chamoli Disaster Case

Deepali Kalia

The Uttarakhand High Court issues a notice on PIL which sought compensation for families affected by the February 7th glacial disaster in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli’s district. The disaster had happened due to a break in a glacier which had led to landslide and floods in the area.

It was inquired by a division bench of Chief Justice RS Chauhan and Justice AK Verma whether any interim compensation has been given to the affected families, whose houses were uprooted in the disaster.

The matter has been posted for the next hearing on June 25 and both central and state governments have been asked by the bench to file their replies by June 20.

The petition filed through Advocate Singdha Tewari by PC Tewari who claims to be a climate activist makes the following assertions:

  • The concerned authorities have not taken proper measures post disaster with regard to ensuring proper registration of those who went missing, in conducting searches for those missing in debris, issuing death certificate, compensating the immediate relatives of those who were lost in the disaster and formulating a proper rehabilitation scheme.
  • On the day of the incident, no early warning mechanism activated at the site of the disaster. There were no proper escape routes constructed at the dam sites as a pre-emptive measure to mitigate the loss of human life. The workers were also not equipped with proper gear, and were only given boots and helmets.”
  • The authorities failed to regulate the companies running and constructing the hydropower projects on fulfillment of the necessary safety standards for the workmen.
  • Project developers of the sites affected by the disaster: (i) Rishiganga Power Project of Kundan Group company; (ii) Tapovan-Vishnugad Project of NTPC; and (iii) Rithwik Project Pvt. Ltd; failed to acknowledge that projects were constructed in paraglacial influence zone.
  • “The respondent no 2 committed grave negligence of keeping the tunnel gates open and the gates of the barrage closed which led the sludge to enter inside the tunnel where workers were working claiming hundreds of lives of the workers who got trapped inside the tunnel without any escape route.”
  • A total no. of 204 workers have been considered to be missing out of which more than 50 have been confirmed to be dead. The petition however alleges that only registered employees are being taken into account and not wage workers. Hence, the no. of people dead or missing is far greater.
  • The petition further alleges that the break occurred due to formation of a crack on the Nanda Ghunti Mountain and the crack had been captured 5 days before, on February 2nd through satellite imaging before the disaster struck. Hence, no preventive measures were taken.

The plea seeks the following:

  • A direction  to the Respondents to prepare a list of all deceased and missing, including the daily wage laborers and any other persons who lost their lives in the disaster and compensate their families.
  • A direction to install early warning systems and to give proper training, gears, knowledge regarding escape routes to workers in all hydropower project sites.
  • Those responsible are booked for causing death by negligence under sec 304 A of IPC.

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