The Uttarakhand High Court has asked the state government to ensure supply of essential commodities to remote villages in Pithoragarh district using choppers within 24 hours and maintain this throughout the winter season.
The order came Thursday on a PIL filed by the residents of around a dozen villages of the district complaining of a shortage of essential food items and other necessities due to their location in inhospitable terrain and poor road connectivity.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Tiwari directed as an interim measure the Uttarakhand government is to provide necessary rations, including flour, ghee, rice, cereals and pulses including fresh vegetables, spices, kerosene oil, matchboxes, condensed milk, tea, toiletries, blankets and other items of daily need within 24 hours by helicopter.
The court also asked the state government to maintain a regular supply of these items to the villages concerned till the winter season is over.
"It shall be open to the state administration to liaison with the Indo Tibetan Border Police Force to punctually implement this order. We also permit the chief secretary of Uttarakhand, to take the assistance of the Indian Air Force towards the implementation of this order," the court said.
The PIL was filed by the residents Lamari, Bundi, Chaiya Lekh, Garbiyang, Napalchu, Gunji, Nabi, Rongkong, Kuti, Kalapani, Nabhi Dhang of Pithoragarh district.
Together they have a population of about 9,000 but there are no roads connecting these villages. The only approach to these villages is by bridle paths and trails, the PIL said.
The terrain of these areas is inhospitable. In 1999-2000, the Centre decided to construct the Ghatiyabagarh-Lipulekh Motor Road, but till date, the road has not been completed. Therefore, compounding the difficulties faced by the residents, it said.
The PIL said due to lack of communication and suspension of helicopter service after the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, they do not have necessary and essential food items and other necessities.
There were media reports recently that inadequate supply of essential food items to villagers in parts of Pithoragarh had made them turn to Chinese items available in the markets of Nepal.
(With inputs from agencies.)