Of the around 2,000 pilgrims on the Char Dham yatra in Uttarakhand, who were stranded after a landslip in Chamoli district, 800 have resumed their onward journey and work is on to clear the debris, officials said on Saturday.The Rishikesh-Badrinath National Highway was closed near Vishnuprayag, one of the five important points of the Alaknanda river, between Joshimath and the hill shrine of Badrinath.Huge boulders had rolled down the Hathi Pahar mountain on Friday afternoon, blocking the highway.CM’s directiveChief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has directed the Secretary of the Disaster Management Department, Amit Negi, to monitor the situation.‘Arrangements in place’“There were no unfortunate incidents, 1,800 tourists were affected and arrangements were made for them. The Border Roads Organisation and other authorities are working on clearing the debris and the route will be opened today; all the suitable arrangements are in place,” Mr. Rawat tweeted.He said, “Information of landslides was shared with various towns along the route.”Chamoli District Magistrate Ashish Joshi dismissed reports that around 15,000 people were stranded. “Only 2,000 people have been affected,” he said.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday described Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s offer of fresh dialogue with stakeholders as “a golden opportunity for the Hurriyat.”“The Hurriyat and Pakistan should respond positively to the offer of talks on Kashmir. It’s high time for the Hurriyat to initiate a result-oriented and meaningful dialogue with the Government of India,” said PDP general secretary Mansoor Hussain Sohrawardhy.Ready for dialogueIn an interview to a New Delhi-based channel, Mr. Singh said, “If Hurriyat is ready to talk, we have no problem, we are ready to talk to anyone. Even if Pakistan comes for a dialogue, we are ready for it.”The PDP leader said the State government had taken a series of confidence and peace-building measures to put a lid on the violence and bloodshed and that “more [measures] could be taken in the future.” “The ball is in the Hurriyat’s court now. The onus also lies on Pakistan to hold dialogue with India and stop painting the borders and the LoC in Kashmir red,” said Mr. Sohrawardhy.Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq maintained that the Hurriyat leadership would “extend its full support to every serious effort aimed at resolving the Kashmir [issue] so that peace prevails and bloodshed stops”. “It’s long overdue that India and Pakistan allow the leadership of the two divided parts of Kashmir to meet with each other and decide on their future course of action regarding their destiny. Such a step is of utmost importance,” said the Mirwaiz.Meanwhile, separatists forum Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) leader Yasin Malik, also JKLF chief, held a sit-in protest in Srinagar to demand release of all political prisoners.“We demand the immediate release of all prisoners, including Masarat Aalam, Qasim Faktoo, Asiya Andrabi and others,” said Mr. Malik.
The sea of red and white which over the past month had become a hallmark of the Commonwealth Games in the city may have slowly faded away after the closing ceremony, but the group of young volunteers are finding it hard to let go.The hard work put in by volunteers was a major reason for the success of the recent Commonwealth GamesDressed in their bright red trackpants and white windcheater uniforms, the young brigade found dotting the city assisting at stadiums and press tribunes across the Games venues here are bidding goodbye to the mega event, which was more than just a sporting event for them.”The Games brought people from diverse backgrounds together and the amount of time we spent together during the last 20 days formed a strong bond of friendship between us, thus this very moment is very painful for me,” says Neha, one of the volunteers. Many like Neha joined the volunteer bandwagon for fun but seem to have taken away an experience they say will cherish forever.”Initially I thought it was just a worthless job but the whole experience has been very rewarding… I can now tell my grandchildren that I was a volunteer at the 2010 Games,” says another collegiate. Their attachment to the whole set-up is such that many want the show to continue infinitely!”We simply didn’t want the Games to end, we wanted to keep working as long as we can,” said Sarika, an army officer’s wife who as a volunteer organised sight-seeing trips for foreign athletes. The thrill of being in the vicinity of star athletes has been one of the few attractions of the job that usually involved 8-10 hours of hard work per day.advertisement”We got to interact with lots of people – athletes, officials, and the media. For me, the best moment was when I stood at an arm’s distance from star boxer Vijender Singh,” she said.”The other day I guided gold medallist Somdev Devvarman to his team bus,” said Ankur Vasudeva, an engineering student who was attached to the British Virgin Islands contingent. Wearing a green team jersey of the island nation, he said: “The Chef-de Mission gifted this shirt to me.”The 22,000 strong volunteer workforce found a special mention in the speeches of Commonwealth Games Federation chief Michael Fennell and Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi at the closing ceremony. Even the foreign athletes recognised their work and were all praise for their dedicated and unflinching service.”They (volunteers) did a great job, in them India had a really big asset which was put to good use. I don’t think the Games would have done well without them,” said Ratu Maafua, a rugby player from Tonga.Meanwhile, the volunteers clicked loads of pictures with fellow workers and foreign athletes to ensure that even if the memories fade, they can be relived and refreshed anytime. “I have made friends with lots of volunteers and they also helped us a lot in the daily work,” said Abbey Burton, an English trap shooter.However, as they say there is always a next time, many volunteers are banking on the success of the Delhi Commonwealth Games for India to bag an Olympics very soon. “I hope India gets a chance to host the 2020 Olympics and no matter what, I shall be the first person to enroll as a volunteer,” says Jatin Kalra of Maharishi Dayanand University. Jatin also hopes that social networking would enable him to stay in touch with the new friends he made during his volunteer posting at the Games Village Press Centre.”Facebook haina uske liye (Facebook can be used for that),” the computer engineering student adds. Other volunteers like Sushant, who was involved with press operations, say they plan to use the experience as building blocks in their careers. “I am going for a good holiday now … When I get back I plan to get involved with the media management of Games,” he says.Sampat Kumar says he plans to go back to college and then hunt for a job. “I have learnt to speak English and am confident of giving interviews,” he says.–With inputs from PTI