Joshimath dispatch: Tales of woe emerge from a dying town; locals squarely blame administration

Many of those affected in Joshimath have suffered displacement for the second time

By Raju Sajwan
Published: Tuesday 10 January 2023
Chander Ballabh Pandey in his house. Photo: Sunny Gautam / CSE

Residents of the sinking town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand have squarely blamed the administration for what has befallen them. They have told Down To Earth’s team that schemes like the Tapovan-Vishnugad Project have brought things to where they are now.

Many of the residents are stressed and under a lot of pressure. They are highly uncertain about their future. Pratap Chauhan, a resident of Singhdhar, said:

Landslides are a fixture in Joshimath every monsoon. But the latest cracks appeared only after the water seepage, which I believe is due to the Tapovan-Vishnugad Project. Also, sewerage treatment plants in the recent past entailed the hollowing up of the entire area. This could also have caused the current disaster.

Durga Prasad Semwal, a resident of Sunil ward in Joshimath, squarely blamed the current crisis on the authorities.

“Cracks first appeared in my house last October, when it rained heavily. I informed the administration. But nobody paid heed. If that would have been done, this mess would not have happened,” Semwal said.

Many of those affected have suffered displacement for the second time. Like Semwal’s two brothers who also live in Sunil. The family of nine people had shifted to Joshimath four decades back, when a flood had struck Marwadi, a ward of Joshimath.

They have now been shifted to a hotel where they spend the night. But they still have to return in the daytime to look at what they can salvage from their houses and attached cowsheds.

The crisis has had an impact on the next generation of the family too. One of the daughters of Semwal’s brother is to write a major examination soon. But now, she is under a lot of stress.

If the government is shifting us again, then it better do so to a place far away from this area so that we do not have to face such a fate again, the family members said.

DTE visited the Manoharbagh neighbourhood of Joshimath after Sunil. Deepak Kaparwan, a youth, wanted to set up a laundry unit in the area. He had arranged to get a machine for the same from Bengaluru.

Kaparwan had spent Rs 35 lakh. But then, cracks began to appear in his unit which got bigger January 3, 2023. Kaparwan is now feeling shattered. He has lost hope of trying to establish his unit.

Chander Ballabh Pandey, who retired from the Uttarakhand Irrigation Department and his widowed sister-in-law, Uttara Devi are in a fix.

Both had pooled their life’s earnings to build a house in Joshimath to spend their last years in. Uttara Devi had worked in an Anganwadi after her husband, Chander Ballabh’s brother, had passed away.

The house has nine rooms. In December, it developed cracks. Chandravallabh got them cemented. But they appeared again and the house is now almost on the verge of collapse. Uttara Devi has three children who are all settled in Dehradun. She does not know where to go now.

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