Uttarakhand CM says Joshimath crisis ‘natural disaster’; People seek solution - Hindustan Times
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Uttarakhand CM says Joshimath crisis ‘natural disaster’; People seek solution

Jan 12, 2023 03:49 PM IST

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami held talks with a newly formed committee of local public representatives and officials to discuss the immediate distribution of interim relief for the victims of Joshimath crisis and decide on a market rate for compensation to people for rehabilitation

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had to face tough questions from residents of Joshimath who claimed that the land subsidence in the township was because of “unscientific” development work even as he claimed that it is a “natural disaster”.

Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami met the affected families of Joshimath and assured them of all possible help from the government. (ANI Photo)
Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami met the affected families of Joshimath and assured them of all possible help from the government. (ANI Photo)

Geological experts have repeatedly said that the subsidence in Joshimath town was apparently because of damage to underground water strata while NTPC was digging a tunnel some years ago and the locals have attributed the spurt in the activity to use of heavy machinery for construction of Helang by-pass as part of Char Dham road project.

After offering prayers at Narsingh Devta temple, the winter abode of Lord Badrinath, on Thursday morning, Dhami told media persons, “It is a natural disaster and has not been caused by anyone. In this hour of crisis, we are with the people of Joshimath and will help them in all possible ways.”

Asked about the cracks in houses in Chamoli’s Karnaprayag, he said, “It is an old problem. We are working to resolve it.” After reports of the cracks there, the Uttarakhand government has asked IIT-Roorkee to conduct a scientific survey to find the reasons.

Mandodari Devi, who lived in Singh Dhar ward, just below the badly damaged Malari Inn hotel, met chief minister Dhami when he came to the relief camp at the local municipal office on Wednesday evening.

“I asked for immediate compensation from the CM for our damaged house. I asked him to give us payment under one-time settlement so that we can shift to the place of our choice,” she said, rejecting the government’s offer to get them settled at Pipalkoti, about 30 km from Joshimath.

She claimed that he assured of all possible help but nothing is being done by the authorities. Asked who was responsible for subsidence, she said, the government. “We have been pleading with the government for three years to halt the development work to prevent subsidence. But, no one heard us,” she alleged.

And now, she said, they have to leave their homes. “I told the CM we want complete payment for our house immediately under one time settlement,” Devi said.

Usha Bisht, who is also staying in the relief camp, said they told the CM about the difficulties that they are facing at the camp. “He (Dhami) told us everything would be fine and did not give any assurance on one-time settlement,” she said.

”I told him that our family can’t be here in a tiny room for too long. It’s already been over a week. Our kids will start going to school in a few days. Where will we prepare their tiffin?” she added.

Anjali Rawat, who lives next to Usha Bisht, said, “CM came to our room yesterday evening. I asked the CM what they have done for the affected families. No concrete assurance was given to us by him. He just inspected the room and left.”

On Wednesday evening, Dhami inspected the relief camps and took stock of the arrangements there. He also met the affected families and assured them of all possible help from the government.

Later in the day, Dhami also held talks with a newly formed committee of local public representatives and officials to discuss the immediate distribution of interim relief for the victims and decide on a market rate for compensation to people for rehabilitation.

He said, “The market rate for rehabilitation will be finalised based on the suggestions by the committee. We will give the best compensation keeping in view the interests of affected people and stakeholders. The maximum that can be done by the government will be done.”

Dhami said, “Winter games are to be held in Auli in February. Char Dham Yatra is going to start in a few months. We also have to see that no wrong message goes outside Joshimath, so that the livelihood of the local people is not affected. We have to work taking all these aspects into consideration.”

Despite the CM’s visit, protests by local residents continued in Joshimath demanding a rehabilitation package on the lines of Badrinath’s master plan. They did not allow the authorities to carry out the survey of unsafe structures and demolition saying there should be clarity on the compensation being offered.

Under the Badrinath master plan, the state government acquired private land and gave 76 lakh per nali under one-time settlement. One nali is equal to 2,160 sq ft. Local residents also said that an interim relief of 1.5 lakh each to the affected families was not adequate.

At the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp in Joshimath’s Sunil, the chief minister held a meeting with officials from ITBP, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), scientists from various institutions, district administration, police, and essential services.

“The safety of residents is our biggest priority. I have instructed officials to ensure all arrangements for the safety of people,” the chief minister said. Dhami also held discussions with scientists from various institutions who are studying the Joshimath land subsidence.

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