Hoping against hope, Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna on Monday refused to declare as dead the 5,748 persons missing after the June 16 calamity in Uttarakhand, saying the mission to find them will not be given up.
However, as the deadline for finding the missing ended, he said the process of paying monetary relief of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of those dead and missing will begin from Tuesday.
But if the missing persons are found, the family will have to return the relief money, he said.
Addressing a press conference along with Union Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs, Rajiv Shukla, the Chief Minister said the search for finding the missing will go on.
"This is hoping against hope but we can't declare them dead. The mission to find them out will go on as we still hope that the missing surface and return to their homes," he said.
The Chief Minister had said last week that those who are still missing will be presumed dead if they remain untraced till July 15.
"A total of 5748 persons are missing till date since the tragedy devastated large parts of the state about a month ago," he said, adding 934 out of them are from Uttarakhand.
Out of Rs five lakh to be given to the next of kin of the missing Rs 3.5 lakh will be paid by the Centre and the rest by the respective state governments, Bahuguna said.
Admitting that debris removal at Kedarnath shrine was being badly affected by inclement weather, the chief minister said the NDRF has not been able to drop equipment needed to clear nearly five feet of debris lying in the shrine premises due to incessant rains.
Bodies have also been sighted in Rambada area a few km from the shrine but the team engaged in the exercise has not been able to reach them.
Relief material is being transported by mules and choppers to affected areas whenever the weather permits.
Bahuguna said BSNL lines have been restored in all affected villages and he will begin communicating with the Gram Pradhans to find out the status of relief operations in villages that remain segregated due to largescale damage to the access roads.