Declare it a national disaster: Congress on land subsidence in Joshimath

Congress accuses the ruling BJP government of delay in responding to the situation in Joshimath

NEW DELHI | Updated: 10 January, 2023 12:45 am IST
Over 609 homes have developed cracks in Joshimath town

Amid the land subsidence in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath area, the Congress on Monday launched an attack on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), accusing it of delay in responding to the situation.

Congress also demanded that the central government declare the situation in the town a national disaster and stop all projects.

Congress leader Pawan Khera said that the reports of land sinking in Joshimath are an important issue.

Pointing out the historical importance of Joshimath, Khera said that it is the land of tapasya. “The town is facing issues as buildings are developing cracks and people are on the streets. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take note when everything is damaged in Joshimath,” he said.

Khera also cited how the Congress-led UPA government responded to noted activist GD Agarwal when he sat on a protest in 2010 over 600 MW Loharinag Pala.

“The then Congress government stopped the construction of the 600 MW Lahorinag-Pala, 480 MW Pala-Maneri and 391 MW Bhairon Ghati hydropower projects. But by then a lot of construction work had been done on the Loharinag Pala and Pala-Maneri projects,” the Congress leader said.

However, despite Agarwal’s protest, media reports suggested that many kilometres of tunnels were dug. Reports also suggested that the incomplete Loharinag Pala project remains a threat to the area.

“But the Modi government at the centre did not pay attention to this and did not take any decision to close the tunnels,” Khera said. The government took him (Agarwal) away forcibly and he later died, Khera said.

The Congress leader further said that locals are blaming a tunnel being constructed under NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugarh Hydropower Plant as responsible for this (land sinking).

“But NTPC has rejected this and IIT Roorkee, GSI, etc. institutes have not yet expressed any reaction to this. Many reasons are being given by experts and environmentalists for the collapse of Joshimath,” Khera said.

He further pointed out that in 1976, a similar situation arose. “The then Congress government, on recommendations of the Mishra Committee, stopped all projects,” he said.

Calling for the situation to be declared a national emergency, Khera demanded that the ex-gratia of ₹5,000 was a cruel joke.
“What is happening in Joshimath should be announced as a national disaster. We also want to highlight that the ex-gratia of ₹5,000, that is being given to the residents is a cruel joke,” he added.

Khera also demanded that NTPC stop working on the tunnel and fill it. Railways Chardham projects should be halted until a thorough investigation is conducted, he added. He also pointed out that the Congress government had earlier stopped these projects in the state.

Meanwhile, Uttarakhand Congress in-charge Devendra Yadav said that Uttarakhand Chief minister Pushkar Dhami went to Joshimath to show off. He said that he should have taken cognizance long ago.

“There has been negligence regarding Joshimath. Cracks are increasing by the hour. Thus, a Congress delegation will meet the Chief minister and Governor tomorrow,” Yadav added.

He also alleged that during the visit of the Chief minister to Joshimath, Congress leaders were house arrested and not allowed to meet him.

Congress’ demand comes a day after PK Mishra, principal secretary to the Prime minister, held a high-level review of building damage and land subsidence in ‘sinking’ Joshimath.

Several families have been moved to different places in Joshimath as over 609 homes have developed cracks in the town.

The district administration had put red cross marks on more than 200 houses in the sinking town that are unsafe for people to live in. It asked their occupants to either shift to the temporary relief centres or rent accommodation, for which each family will get assistance of ₹4,000 per month for the next six months from the state government.

Personnel of the National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force have been deployed for the relief and rescue efforts.

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