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CM calls on Chanda family

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee went to Everester Chanda Gayen’s house in Howrah on her way back from Nabanna on Friday evening and told her mother she wanted to go to Nepal to personally co-ordinate the rescue operations but diplomatic issues had prevented her from doing so.

A chief minister has to take permission from the external affairs ministry for clearance before visiting another country. “A clearance is unlikely because there is no government, technically, at the Centre now,” a senior state government official said.

Sources said the chief minister told Chanda’s mother that she had been to the Kanchenjungha many years ago and taken part in a rescue operation to bring back six climbers from Behala.

“She said the state was willing to extend all support and pay as much money as required to conduct the search. She said she herself was willing to go to Nepal but there are some diplomatic issues,” Chanda’s mother Jaya said after Mamata had left.

The Nepal consul-general in Calcutta, Chandra Kumar Ghimire, met Mamata at Nabanna on Friday afternoon to brief her about the steps initiated by the Nepal government to try and rescue Chanda.

“The terrain where Chanda went missing is one of the most difficult places in the world. In addition, the place where the avalanche occurred is 7,500 metres high,” Ghimire said while explaining why rescue operation is difficult.

“Specialised chopper and specially trained persons are required to undertake search in the area. We have been sending our specialised teams since the incident took place but are yet to spot anything. The search operation, however, is on.”

Mamata went to Chanda’s house off Kona Expressway, around 5km from Nabanna, around 7.10pm. She spent a little more than 30 minutes inside the house comforting the family and listening to their grievances.

Mamata had called up Jaya around 11.45am and spoken to her for around two minutes.

The moment Mamata introduced herself over the phone, Jaya burst into complaints: “You have sent three state representatives to search for my daughter. But they are not communicating with us. I don’t know what they are doing. Your ministers are saying the state government is by our side and is doing its best to rescue my daughter. But I don’t know what sort of attempt is under way.”

The lady was referring to the team comprising two Everesters and a state government official that was sent to Nepal to oversee the search. According to Nabanna sources, they reached the base camp on Friday.

Jaya said Mamata tried to comfort her saying she was personally checking the updates but the tensed mother passed the phone to son Jyotirmoy.

Jyotirmoy told the chief minister they had no idea how the state or the Nepali authorities were trying to rescue Chanda. “I wanted a clear knowledge on how the search operation was being conducted. She asked me to call the sherpas who were conducting the search. But I said I would not call and that it was the state’s responsibility to know it from them and inform us,” Jyotirmoy said.

Before ending the two-minute conversation, Mamata told Jyotirmoy that she was personally overseeing the search.

Youth affairs minister Aroop Biswas told a news conference around 4.30pm that Mamata wanted to visit Nepal and expedite the search. “Chief secretary Sanjay Mitra is trying to get in touch with the ministry of external affairs to secure the required permission for the chief minister’s visit to Nepal. Once the permission comes, she will fly to Nepal,” Biswas said.