Back home from Uttarakhand, Gujarat official's wife says Modi govt claims 'cheap stunt'

The state government's efforts to bring back Gujarati pilgrims from flood-ravaged Uttarakhand have left many unimpressed, among them one of its own engineers who too was stranded there along with family members and friends for days.

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Mahesh Mevada (52), an executive engineer with the state's Roads & Buildings Department, had gone on the pilgrimage along with his wife Harsha (44), dentist daughter Riddhi (24) and some friends. All of them have returned home after spending around nine nightmarish days in Uttarakhand.

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They say the arrangements made by the Gujarat government was nothing but a "cheap publicity stunt".

The Mevadas set out from Gujarat on June 8 and were at Kedarnath on June 16 when the calamity struck. "We found our way through floods and jungles to Ramvada village, from where we were brought to Fata by a rescue helicopter, without food and proper potable water. Ultimately, we reached Haridwar on June 22," says Mahesh, who says he was down with fever and low blood pressure then.

At Haridwar, the Mevadas were joined by Harsha's brother Bharat Suthar, who had rushed from Ahmedabad to Uttarakhand after hearing about the calamity.

The Mevadas, Suthar and their friends stayed overnight at Shantikunj Ashram of Gayatri Parivar in Haridwar where the Gujarat government had set up a camp for stranded pilgrims. "Till Haridwar, we saw no signs of the Gujarat government's rescue and relief operations," Mahesh says.

Since the family wanted to go home at the earliest, they were ready to charter a flight back for Rs 4.5 lakh, says the engineer. "But state government officials there told us a flight arranged by them would take us back for free. For the next 2-3 hours, nothing happened. Suddenly, we were told the flight had been cancelled and we would be going by train in a sleeper coach," he adds.

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