Uttarakhand CM Visits Joshimath As Protests Stall Demolition Of Unsafe Structures

The chief minister said there should be a 'balance between ecology and economy' wherever development work is being carried out.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Source:&nbsp;Pushkar Singh Dhami/ Twitter)</p></div>
(Source: Pushkar Singh Dhami/ Twitter)

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami visited the subsidence-hit Joshimath town on Wednesday and announced an interim assistance for the affected people, even as protests by locals, who are demanding compensation on the lines of Badrinath, stalled the demolition of unsafe structures.

"We stand with the people of Joshimath. The Prime Minister is personally monitoring the situation. I have his full support. Their (affected people) interest will be taken care of," Dhami told reporters on his arrival in Joshimath.

Compensation will be given in accordance with the market rate, which will be ascertained after taking all the stakeholders into confidence, the chief minister, who visited houses that have developed cracks more recently and spoke to the affected people, said.

An interim assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh is being given to the affected people and details of relief and rehabilitation are being worked out, Dhami said.

A 19-member committee, headed by Chamoli District Magistrate Himanshu Khurana, has been formed for the distribution of the package amount among the affected families and ascertaining the rate of a rehabilitation package.

Dhami also said an impression is being created that entire Uttarakhand is in danger, which is not correct.

"Such an impression should not be created. We are going to have the international winter games in Auli in February. The Char Dham Yatra will also begin in a few months. This kind of wrong impression should not be created," he said.

The chief minister said there should be a "balance between ecology and economy" wherever development work is being carried out.

Dhami clarified that only two hotels were going to be mechanically demolished and not the houses marked as unsafe.

He said the force of the water percolating from the Marwari ward, since the burst of an underground channel more than a week ago, has almost halved.

"It is a relieving piece of news as relentless percolation of water from it had raised concerns that it could further aggravate land subsidence in Joshimath," the chief minister said.

Meanwhile, protests continued in the town and so did the evacuation of the affected families, with 18 more shifted to temporary relief centres.

A total of 145 families have so far been evacuated from the danger zone in Joshimath, the Disaster Management Authority in Chamoli said.

More than 700 houses have been declared unsafe.

Two hotels adjacent to each other—the seven-storied Malari Inn and the five-storied Mount View—stand precariously in the subsidence zone, posing a threat to more than a dozen houses.

Preparations to demolish the structures mechanically with the help of the Roorkee-based Central Building Research Institute, which carried out the demolition of Noida's twin towers, had begun on Tuesday itself but the exercise hit a hurdle when the owners of the two hotels, supported by locals, sat on a protest.

They are demanding compensation along the lines of what was offered to those displaced by the Badrinath renovation masterplan.

Earlier, Meenakshi Sundaram, the secretary to the chief minister, met the protesters and assured them that adequate compensation, in accordance with the market rate, will be given.

"The market rate will be decided after taking suggestions of the stakeholders in public interest. The interests of the locals will be taken care of," he said.

"I want to clarify one thing. Only two hotels are to be dismantled.... Houses in the danger zone are not going to be demolished. The red cross marks put on the houses is only to have those vacated," Sundaram, who is also the nodal officer for the land subsidence-hit town, said.

Agitated locals continued to sit on a dharna and refused to allow authorities to raze the hotels.

"We want compensation along the lines of Badrinath. But the secretary to the chief minister said it is not possible. He said compensation in accordance with the market rate could be given. But when we asked what would be the market rate, he said he did not know," Thakur Singh Rana, the owner of Malari Inn, told reporters.