Bhaichung Bhutia, the Sikkim football icon turned politician, has held Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay responsible for the delay in providing initial information regarding the Lhonak Lake Glacial Lake Outburst that occurred on October 4.
Adressing presser in Gangtok today, Bhutia asserted, “It was solely the fault of the Sikkim CM that exacerbated the magnitude of this calamity. He rushed to blame the dam without conducting a thorough investigation. Currently, he calls for a CBI investigation, but why request one when you claim to possess the report already?”
Further, Bhutia countered the Sikkim Chief Minister regarding the timing of the Glacial Lake Outburst (GLOF) and the dissemination of information to the public. He stated, “Even after the disaster had occurred, the first information came from ITBP Jawans situated 8 kilometers away, reporting that the flooding had commenced at 10:30 pm on October 3. They promptly informed their headquarters near Chungthang, which, in turn, relayed the information to the authorities, including the Chief Minister’s office. The Chief Minister acknowledged receiving this information at 10:40 pm, as he later confirmed in a press conference held days later.
“However, in a subsequent press conference, he claimed to have been informed at 11:40 pm. This indicates that despite receiving the initial information at 10:40 pm, he did not take immediate action. He even continued with his ‘Janta Darbar’ until 11:30 pm in Mangan, North Sikkim, as he himself has admitted.”
Bhutia further argued, “In the face of a natural disaster, the immediate response should have been to halt public meetings and commence rescue operations while providing information to the public. In this digital age, disseminating information and initiating rescue efforts should have taken just ten minutes. However, the Chief Minister’s incompetence and irresponsibility resulted in significant losses of innocent lives due to his mishandling of the flood crisis.”
“Two days after the flooding, the Chief Minister began making statements without conducting any research or investigation, claiming that the Chungthang dam was substandard. He criticized its construction without presenting any evidence or consulting engineers. This was a time when unity and rescue operations were essential, but the Chief Minister chose to exploit the flood victims for political gain, which was highly inappropriate.” He added
Furthermore, Bhaichung Bhutia noted that the Chief Minister’s statements have been inconsistent, in which he said “Since the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha formed the government, there have been repeated warnings from the Government of India, the National Disaster Management Authority, scientists, and international researchers, all highlighting the danger of the Lhonak Lake and the risk of it bursting. Even the Government of India allocated Rs. 20.24 Crores to prevent such a disaster. Despite these warnings and resources, the SKM Government and Golay failed to take any meaningful action.”