As the Uttarakhand government on Tuesday prepared to demolish two hotels badly affected by land subsidence in Joshimath, the hotel owners opposed the "abrupt" move, saying they had no prior information about it. The state government, had on Monday, decided to mechanically demolish 'Mount View' and 'Malari Inn' hotels that developed huge cracks recently and were leaning towards each other, posing a risk to the nearby settlements.
Ranjit Sinha, Secretary, Disaster Management told reporters that the Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee has been roped in for the demolition exercise. The devastated hotel owners said they came to know about the development through newspapers and demanded that a one-time settlement plan should have been offered to them before the decision was made.
"I came to know about it through newspapers this morning. There was no prior notice. If the government demarcated my hotel as unsafe, it should have first come up with a one-time settlement plan before deciding to demolish it," Thakur Singh, who owns Malari Inn, said.
"The SDM told me to be here as he was reaching here by 9 am. I have built this hotel with my sweat and blood. What will happen to me if it is demolished just like that?" Singh, who belongs to Bhotia tribe, told PTI.
Mount View owner Lalmani Semwal expressed similar sentiments.
"It is like slaying a child one has reared through years of hard work in front of his parent," he said.
"We put in all our resources into building this hotel. We paid regular taxes to the government. It said nothing then and now all of a sudden, it comes up with a drastic decision like this. Isn't it violation of human rights? "... at least, we should be offered a one-time settlement plan as compensation on the lines of Badrinath," Semwal said. Meanwhile, power supply lines to the hotels and surrounding areas were cut off by the administration ahead of the demolition move, disrupting electricity supply to around 500 houses in the vicinity.
Chief Secretary S S Sandhu had ordered the demolition of buildings located in high risk zone at Joshimath and speedy evacuation of the affected people, saying "every minute was important".
Joshimath, the gateway to famous pilgrimage sites like Badrinath and Hemkund Sahib and international skiing destination Auli, is facing a major challenge due to land subsidence.
Joshimath is sinking gradually with huge cracks developing in houses, on roads and fields. Many houses have tilted and are sinking, locals said.