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Kedarnath priest, locals oppose land authority

Opposition is simmering in Kedarnath Valley after the newly-constituted Kedarnath Development Authority that aims at systematisation of land use and checking construction has started spreading its wings

dehradun Updated: Sep 18, 2017 21:03 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times
The state cabinet had approved the Kedarnath Development Authority in July.(HT File)

Opposition is simmering in Kedarnath Valley after the newly constituted Kedarnath Development Authority that aims at systematisation of land use and checking construction has started spreading its wings.

Local priests, who own majority land holding near the shrine along with villagers, are criticising this move claiming it was a strategy to acquire their land and hand it over to builders and businessmen.

In July, the state cabinet approved setting up of the authority. Prior to this, the housing development directorate was in-charge of the land related matters which was transferred to the tourism department constituting the authority under the leadership of Rudraprayag’s district magistrate.

While officials claim the housing by laws are as it is adopted by the authority, locals sulk over the decision.

“Our land is at risk. The intention of the government to constitute this authority is to acquire our land and trade it to businessmen for setting up hotels, resorts and what not,” Kuber Nath Posti, priest at Kedarnath shrine, told HT over phone.

He met chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat over the issue a week ago. Rawat told him that the authority was already constituted and the government won’t be able to help locals in this regard.

According to MLA Badrinath Manoj Rawat, the ‘Pande’ or priest of Kadarnath own nearly 370 land holdings around the shrine.

And so is the case with villagers of Gaurikund, Sitapur, Turjuginarayan and others. He claimed some builders have purchased land in the valley especially near the shrine.

“The intention of the government is clear. They are claiming to regulate construction in the Valley but at the same time selling the properties near the shrine to big builders,” Rawat said.

“These builders will make resorts and hotels and will earn while locals won’t be left with any choice than to migrate,” he said.

Rakesh Rawat, a local villager of Sitapur, said, “For minor construction in our villages, we never needed permission from DM. But, the authority will cause unnecessary problems for the remaining villagers here as we will have to seek permission from them for every task. This way, they will promote migration.”

R Meenakshi Sundaram, chief executive officer of Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB), stressed that the intention of the government was to regulate construction which could pose threat to the fragile ecosystem of the valley.

“The valley is sensitive and the authority would work as per the direction of the Nainital High Court regulating unchecked construction,” he said.

First Published: Sep 18, 2017 21:03 IST