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Joshimath crisis deepens: Activists write to PM Modi; number of buildings with cracks rises to 849

SC declines to hear plea, says HC should handle it as matter of principle

A child plays near a PWD Guest House where cracks appeared due to sinking of land in Joshimath | PTI A child plays near a PWD Guest House where cracks appeared due to sinking of land in Joshimath | PTI

The Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti on Monday urged the Centre to take over the relief and rehabilitation work in Joshimath as it accused the Uttarakhand government of adopting a "lackadaisical" approach, even as number of buildings developing cracks in the subsidence-hit town rose to 849, out of which 165 are located in the danger zone.

The Joshimath Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (JBSS) also raised pitch for scrapping of NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project.

The development comes on a day the Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea seeking the court's intervention to declare the crisis in Joshimath a national disaster, saying since the state high court is seized of a "broad range of issues" it should hear it as a matter of principle.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, JBSS convenor Atul Sati accused the state government of ignoring its warnings about the imminent disaster for 14 months and dealing with it now at a snail's pace.

"The crisis has endangered the very existence of a historic town, but the relief and rescue operations being carried out by the state government are devoid of any urgency," it said.

"We demand from the Prime Minister that the relief-rehabilitation and stabilisation work in Joshimath is taken over by the Centre to secure the lives and interest of people," the letter said.

Joshimath, the gateway to famous pilgrimage sites like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib and international skiing destination Auli, appears on the edge of a precipice with gaping cracks appearing on buildings, roads and public facilities. The state government faces an uphill task providing relief and rehabilitating the affected families in brutal winter.

The Samiti also demanded the scrapping of NTPC's Tapovan-Vishnugad hydel project, holding the building of its tunnel responsible for the current crisis in Joshimath. It said L&T company was initially building the tunnel for the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), but had to quit as it was not satisfied with the way the corporation worked.

The letter also mentioned a research paper published in an international journal in 2015 which said the tunnel was dug in the "fault zone".

Meanwhile, the apex court asked Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, who had filed a plea to declare Joshimath crisis a national disaster, to approach the Uttarakhand High Court.

"As a matter of principle, we should allow the High Court to deal with this. High Court is seized of a broad range of issues, we will give you liberty to approach the High Court.

"The specific aspects which have been highlighted in these proceedings can be addressed before the high court for suitable redressal. We accordingly permit the petitioners either to institute a substantive petition before the high court so that it can be together with pending proceedings or intervene in the pending matter. The high court is requested to consider the grievance," the bench said.

The petitioner has contended subsidence in swathes of the town has occurred due to large-scale industrialisation and sought immediate financial assistance and compensation.

The plea has also sought direction to the National Disaster Management Authority to actively support the residents of Joshimath in these challenging times.

In Joshimath, evacuation of affected families to temporary relief centres and dismantling of two unsafe hotels continued.

According to officials, the number of buildings developing cracks in the town rose to 849, out of which 165 are located in the danger zone.

A total of 800 people, belonging to 237 families, have so far been shifted to safety by the district administration, according to the daily bulletin of the Disaster Management Authority.

They said 615 rooms in 83 places have been identified as temporary relief camps in the town in which 2,190 people can be accommodated. Besides, 491 rooms in 20 buildings have been identified as temporary relief camps in Pipalkoti outside Joshimath municipal area where 2,205 people can stay, they said.

The district administration has so far distributed Rs 301.77 lakh worth interim assistance to 396 affected families.

"Around 284 food kits, 360 blankets, 842 litres of milk, 55 heaters/blowers, 36 daily use kits, and 642 other relief materials have been distributed to the affected," an official sad.

Health check-up of more than 637 people living in relief camps has been done, while health tests of 33 animals were also done in the affected areas.

Meanwhile, Jyotishpeeth Shankaracharya Swami Avimuketeshwaranand began a 100-day 'mahayagya' at Nrisingh Mandir on Monday for the safety of Joshimath and its people. 

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