Andhra CM rushes to Delhi, promises help to pilgrims

New Delhi/Hyderabad, June 25 (IANS) Under flak for the alleged failure to come to the rescue of pilgrims returning from flood-ravaged Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy Tuesday rushed to New Delhi.

With the leader of opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu scoring a point by arranging a chartered flight from New Delhi to Hyderabad, Reddy declared that the state government would operate a special aircraft from Dehra Dun to Hyderabad.

The chief minister rushed to the national capital hours after the aircraft hired by main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) landed in Hyderabad with 196 pilgrims. The TDP had also arranged special buses to take them to their respective destinations.

Naidu, who called on some pilgrims at AP Bhavan, the state government office in New Delhi, also arranged flight tickets for some survivors flying to Visakhapatnam.

He and other TDP leaders lodged their protest when the officials removed a medical camp set up by the party.

"The government has failed to provide relief and it is unfortunate that it is creating problems for those who are trying to do something," Naidu said.

A couple of hours later, Kiran Kumar Reddy reached AP Bhavan. Without naming Naidu, he said playing petty politics over a national disaster was unfortunate. He said everybody needs to extend a helping hand to the pilgrims in this hour of crisis.

Denying that the government failed to come to the pilgrims' rescue, the chief minister said Andhra Pradesh was the first state to open a control room in Delhi and also in Dehra Dun.

He said three ministers and two officials were also sent to Uttarakhand to monitor rescue and relief work.

"The chief secretary is monitoring the situation four times a day. This will continue till the last pilgrim returns home," he said.

The chief minister said police officers who have experience of working in Uttarakahand would be sent to the hill state for rescue and relief work. Kiran Kumar Reddy said out of over 2,500 people who had gone to pilgrimage, 1,500 had so far returned home.

After his return from the US Sunday, Naidu had been camping in Delhi and also visited Dehra Dun to meet Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna to request him to take steps for rescue of pilgrims from the state.

He criticized the state government for not making proper arrangements to provide medical assistance and food to the pilgrims reaching Delhi.

Naidu said while other states were arranging special aircrafts for their pilgrims, Andhra Pradesh government failed to hire a plane and was making the pilgrims travel by trains.

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