Renewed efforts were made by the administration on Wednesday to persuade hoteliers and locals refusing to allow the demolition of two precariously standing hotels in subsidence-hit Joshimath in Uttarakhand.
A fresh round of talks was held between Secretary to the Chief Minister, Meenakshi Sundaram and the protesters who have been demanding compensation on the lines of Badrinath before the demolition exercise is undertaken.
Hotels ‘Malari Inn’ and ‘Mount View’ are leaning towards each other dangerously, posing a threat to the human settlements around the structures. The Uttarakhand government had directed the razing of unstable structures on Monday, starting with these two buildings.
Talking to reporters, the senior official clarified that only two hotels in Joshimath have to be dismantled and not the houses demarcated as unfit for living. “I want to clarify one thing. Only two hotels are to be dismantled. Demolition, though being used widely, is not the precise word in this context. Houses in the danger zone are not going to be demolished. The red cross marks put on them is only to have them vacated,” Mr Sundaram, who is also the nodal officer for the land subsidence-hit town, said.
He, however, did not give a definite timeline on the beginning of the demolition exercise, but said his interaction with the protesting locals was positive and the matter will be resolved soon.
The chief secretary also announced that Rs 1.5 lakh is being given as interim assistance to the affected families. Out of this amount, Rs 50,000 is being provided in advance for house shifting and Rs 1 lakh for disaster relief which will be adjusted later, he said. Those who want to shift to a rented accommodation will be given Rs 4,000 per month for six months, he said. Earlier, Mr Sundaram held a meeting with the stakeholders and the locals and assured them that adequate compensation according to market rates will be given. “The market rate will be decided after taking suggestions of the stakeholders in the public interest. The interests of the local people will be taken care of,” he said.
Meanwhile, the clamour for compensation grew as agitated locals continued to sit on dharnas and refused to allow the authorities to go ahead with the demolition.
“We want compensation on the lines of Badrinath. But the secretary to the chief minister said it was not possible. He said compensation as per 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 before resuming his dharna.
Adding to the troubles of residents, weather in Joshimath has turned bad. It is cloudy and drizzling in the town and people are afraid rainwater may further contribute to land subsidence in the area. A total of 131 families have so far been shifted to temporary relief centres in Joshimath and the number of damaged houses in the town has risen to 723.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)