But everything changed in the month of May, as the state's ethnic fault lines cracked open and long-simmering tensions came to the boil.
The Uttarakhand government on Wednesday announced Rs 1.5 lakh interim relief to affected families who have been shifted to safer locations after land subsidence in Joshimath led to houses and establishments developing cracks.
“Each family will be given immediate interim assistance of Rs 1.50 lakh. Apart from the two hotel buildings which are marked ‘unsafe’, no other building is being demolished. Till now, cracks have been noticed in 723 buildings,” the Secretary to Uttarakhand chief minister R Meenakshi Sundaram said today.
Cracks have appeared in 723 buildings in Joshimath town of Uttarakhand which has been affected by land subsidence and so far 131 families have been shifted to safer locations, according to the district administration.
“We are in touch with local representatives and asked them to bring it to our notice if new cracks appear. 131 families have been shifted to relief centres,” District Magistrate, Chamoli, Himanshu Khurana told ANI.
The district magistrate said that a central team will survey the damage to properties due to the land subsidence and suggest a way forward while coordinating with the local administration in relief and rescue efforts.
“A team of scientists from IIT Roorkee have been asked to inspect the buildings of the affected Bahuguna Nagar of Karnprayag where cracks were reported,” Khurana had said.
Today, RM Sundaram the Secretary to Uttarakhand chief minister along with district administration held a meeting with the people whose houses have suffered damages.
A good thing is that water leakage near Jaypee Company is decreasing and it reached 250 LPM last evening. After January 7 no new cracks have developed and the old cracks have not increased. Two buildings that are unsafe need to be demolished and we appeal to the people to support us,” the secretary to Uttarakhand chief minister said.
Locals in Joshimath on Tuesday protested against National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) demanding its withdrawal from the state.
District officials have asked people to vacate homes and other establishments that have been identified for demolition which have developed cracks and have been identified as “unsafe”. These buildings have all been marked with red ‘X’ marks.
Two hotels- Hotel Malari Inn and Hotel Mount View- have been marked for demolition and the process of dismantling was supposed to begin on Tuesday evening was stopped after protests by the owner of Malari Inn and some locals. The protestors demanded compensation as per the rates listed under the Badrinath Dham redevelopment masterplan.
Teams of the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI) had been roped in to supervise the demolition process with personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) on stand by.
Speaking to ANI, Thakur Singh Rana, the owner of Hotel Malari Inn said, “My son stays in France. I can move there. But I am sitting in protest instead in solidarity with fellow (Joshimath) residents.”
His wife said, “We need to be compensated as those affected by the ongoing Badrinath redevelopment work. We are even prepared to sit out in the freezing cold till our demand is met.”
According to sources, the hotel owners will meet the district magistrate to push for compensation.
“They will be dismantling these hotels for the safety of the 15-20 families still living here. Our houses have been destroyed,” said Manmohan Singh Rawat, a local.