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Snowfall, rain throw life out of gear in sinking Joshimath

Falling temperatures in the sinking town have worsened plight of people who were displaced from their houses to shelter homes; they complain about insufficient arrangements made to get through the weather; electricity infrastructure affected by subsidence warns of a power crisis

January 21, 2023 08:20 pm | Updated January 26, 2023 10:02 am IST - NEW DELHI

People walk on a snow-covered road as the area witnesses heavy snowfall, at Joshimath, in Chamoli.

People walk on a snow-covered road as the area witnesses heavy snowfall, at Joshimath, in Chamoli. | Photo Credit: ANI

Life has been thrown out of gear in Joshimath after snow and rains hit the already ‘sinking’ town over the last couple of days, with those living in shelter homes suffering the additional ordeal of leaving home and living a nomadic life. The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted more snow for the town and nearby areas in the coming week.

Raghuveer Singh Kunwar, who runs a tea stall in the town that is abuzz with administrative officials from both Centre and State arriving to ascertain the cause of land subsidence, is concerned about the wedding of his elder son Rohit that is scheduled to be held on January 26. His house being in the danger zone, Mr. Kunwar stayed in a local gurudwara till Thursday. Now, he has moved to his younger brother’s home in Shalu Dungra village, located 15 km from Joshimath.

“My house is just behind the hotel Mount View and Malari-Inn which are being demolished as they have tilted and pose a threat to several other houses in the vicinity. The administration had moved us to a shelter home 10 days ago but I have a wedding in the family and the preparations have gone haywire due to the same,” Mr. Kunwar said.

His family of six is currently putting up tents in their native village, as the movement of guests started on Saturday.

Shadi to ho jayegi… magar bahu ko kahan le jayenge? Shelter home mein? (The wedding can happen in any circumstance, but where we will take this new bride? To the shelter home?),” asked Prema Devi, mother of the groom.

Wedding preparations disrupted

Jyoti Kumari, 24, whose wedding is scheduled for March says that her parents purchased gifts and clothes for the wedding in December itself. But after the administration included her dilapidated house in the danger category, she had to move into the shelter home, leaving everything behind.

“I don’t think that the situation in my town will become normal anytime soon but the biggest regret would be of not getting married from the house where I was born,” she said.

According to the data provided by the district administration, as many as 863 houses in the town have been damaged in the land subsidence which some experts say has been going on for several years. Among the 863 damaged homes, 181 are in the danger zone and will eventually be demolished. The government claimed it has rehabilitated 274 families and 921 people by moving them to shelter homes set up by the administration, but people say that the arrangements are not enough to deal with the nail-biting cold.

‘Shelter homes too cold’

“There is one heater in a hall in Palika Parishad Bhawan where around 22 people are living. Total 50 people are in this entire premises which has just three heaters. There are small children with us. The arrangements are insufficient for this weather,” said a villager who did not wish to be named.

The IMD department has no respite for residents either, with predictions of both rain and snow in the next week. So far, the town has witnessed 18.4 mm of rainfall since the beginning of the month and 2.5 mm in the past 24 hours alone. Together, the snow and rainfall have plunged the minimum temperature to 0.7 degrees.

Power crisis

Amid the tales of gloom and apathy, Joshimath town is also staring at a power crisis. According to officials of the Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd (UPCL), around 70 electric poles and a couple of transformers have started tilting or have tilted in the town that has a sub-station of 33/11kv capacity.

“We have already fixed the issue of some towers that were tilting. We are trying to ensure that there is no power crisis in the town. Things are under control so far,” said UPCL managing director Anil Kumar.

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