The Uttarakhand government has issued a notification authorising 136 people still missing after the flash flood in Chamoli district over two weeks ago to be declared “presumed dead”.
Sixty-eight bodies have so far been recovered after the February 7 disaster. There is a tunnel in which around 35 people are suspected to have been trapped, but rescuers have not been able to reach it till now due to the sludge. Authorities say clearing the debris from the tunnel could take months.
A glacial lake was formed upstream of Tapovan over Rishiganga following the devastating flash flood which had demolished a 13.2 MW hydel project along the river besides causing extensive damage to the NTPC’s Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project along Dhauliganga.
Uttarakhand Health Secretary Amit Singh Negi said on Tuesday that the presumption of death can be made by officials in the affected district only in case of missing people who in all likelihood have died in the disaster but their bodies have not been found.
Normally the missing are declared dead only when they are not traced for seven years after the incident responsible for their disappearance but in case of an extraordinary occurrence like the one witnessed in Uttarakhand special provisions can be made, he said.
The move to declare those who continue to be missing in the flash flood as presumed dead has been initiated to expedite the process of distribution of compensation among the affected families, he said. The notification was issued on the basis of an SOP issued by the Centre in this regard on February 21, Negi said. A similar SOP was issued by the Centre after the Kedarnath deluge of June, 2013 in which thousands of people were killed and left missing.
The SOP was formulated on the request of the state government by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, he said. In normal circumstances, the death is registered only on the reports from persons mentioned in section 8 of the Registration of Births and Deaths (RBD) Act, 1969. However, in extraordinary cases like the one in Uttarakhand, reports from public servants after due enquiry can be made use of for registering the deaths,the notification said.