Joshimath dispatch: Afraid to report cracks in homes, locals protesting demolition of hotels say

Joshimath locals claim they have been stopped from entering their houses; demand clarity and transparency in compensation

By Raju Sajwan
Published: Wednesday 11 January 2023
The two hotels that were to be demolished. Photo: Sunny Gautam / CSE__

The sinking town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand witnessed high drama January 10 and 11, 2023 as residents protested the administration’s move to demolish two hotels, saying they could collapse due to cracks brought about by land subsidence.

The disagreement witnessed has highlighted the uncertainty facing townspeople as well as compensation being offered by the government for the property that people have lost.

Protests erupted January 10 as officials reached the spot where the two hotels — Mount View and Malari Inn — stood.

The hotel owners refused to allow the demolition to go ahead claiming that they had been offered Rs 2.5 crore each for their respective establishments. They added that this was much less than what they should be given.

The owners said they would not let the demolition proceed unless they were promised compensation commensurate to what they were about to lose. They also demanded to be given information regarding the compensation on documents with the government’s letter head.

Other locals came in support of the hotel owners stating that once the authorities started demolition, no house would be spared.

In fact, many house owners have not revealed to officials about their houses developing cracks. “People are afraid to reveal that their houses have developed cracks,” Prakash Negi, a member of the town municipality told DTE.

Residents told Down To Earth they feared they would be asked to leave their homes if they revealed that these had cracked.

They are not happy with the alternate lodging made available to them. Most have been lodged in municipal buildings or hotels. But they do not know what will become of their belongings and what arrangements have been made for food.

The last one is indeed a sore point since some residents said they were not getting anything to eat in the alternate lodgings.

Another reason is that many have hoarded supplies in their houses for the winter. This is an annual practice in the area during winters when the town becomes snowbound.

The residents said they could not leave their supplies just like that as there was the danger of theft. Many also do not want to leave their cattle were still inside their cracked dwellings.

There is no clear cut plan or blueprint of the administration regarding the long-term resettlement of the residents.

R Meenakshi Sundaram, secretary to the Uttarakhand chief minister, told journalists January 11 that affected families will be paid an emergency compensation of Rs 1.5 lakh. Of this, Rs 1 lakh will be given to owners of houses that have cracked. Rs 50,000 is for shifting to new quarters.  

Sundaram also defended the decision to dismantle the two hotels, stating they were a danger to nearby buildings.

However, residents are not satisfied. Home owners sat through the bitter mountain cold of the night in protest against the decision.

“Compensation and its estimation should be done properly. We are being made to leave our houses without being served a notice. We are being stopped from entering our own houses by the authorities who have put barricades in place,” Bhavani Lal, a resident of Cantonment Bazar said.

Read more:

Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.