Indian media: Dam disaster kills students in Himalayas

Indian rescue personnel gather on the banks of the Beas River during a search operation in Kullu on June 9, 2014. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Rescue workers have stepped up their search efforts for the missing 19 students

Media in India say that more than 20 students are feared dead in Himachal Pradesh state due to the "appalling negligence" of authorities at a hydropower dam.

A group of 24 students was on a holiday in the Himalayan state when they were swept away by a sudden surge of water released from the upstream dam.

The students, who were on a college trip, had reportedly left a bus to take photographs when the surge occurred. Rescue workers have found the bodies of five students and are searching for 19 others missing, officials said.

Papers have criticised the "appalling absence" of a proper warning system to stop the students from going close to the river before water was released from the dam.

"A tragedy beyond words," reads the headline of the Asian Age's editorial.

"The flow of water may be a force of nature, but this calamity appears man-made as the water stored in the reservoir of the Larji hydropower project was released without, as some survivors said, so much as a warning being given to areas downstream of the Beas river in Himachal Pradesh," it says.

The paper further adds that "this is a man-made tragedy typical of a land that does not place sufficient value on life, maybe because the humongous numbers here make it appear so cheap".

"Death by neglect," is the headline of The Tribune's edit on the tragedy.

"An investigation is now on to find out whether due process to warn people downstream was followed before the water was released. The fact is that whatever was done was not enough," says the paper.

'Colour scheme'

Meanwhile, papers say Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to start implementing his government's key initiatives outlined in President Pranab Mukherjee's address to the joint session of the parliament on Monday.

Most papers feel Mr Modi has come to power on the back of huge poll promises and now he has to fulfil them.

"Mr Mukherjee's address to parliament outlined in dispassionate terms the enormous task that lies ahead for the government, which has come to power generating very high expectations… Now the task of operationalising this begins and this will be the true litmus test for the new government," says The Hindustan Times.

According to the Indian Express, the Modi government's statement of intent, laid out in the president's address, was "unexceptionable and sweeping".

"Having secured a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha [lower house of parliament]… there should be little or no lag between the government declaring its intent and working to keep its promises," the paper adds.

And finally, residents in the eastern city of Calcutta are likely to get "a waiver on property tax for a full year" if they agree to paint their house in white and blue, reports say.

Blue and white are the "favourite colours" of Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state, the Hindustan Times reports.

She had earlier said that "blue and white signifies happiness and the city looks bright in this colour scheme", the paper adds.

The city's municipal council has sent a proposal on the "colour scheme" to Ms Banerjee's cabinet for approval, it adds.

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