Devprayag / Dehradun: A liquor bottling plant at Devprayag, the confluence of two major tributaries of the Ganga river, has sparked a controversy in Uttarakhand where locals and religious organisations are protesting against alleged desecration of the sacred place and demanding immediate cancellation of its licence.
Devprayag in Tehri district is revered by Hindus as it is the meeting point of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda from where the Ganga flows as a single entity.
Licence to the company for manufacturing Indian made foreign liquor was granted in December 2016 when the Congress was in power in the state.
The Delhi-based firm named Vindeshwari Exim Pvt Ltd began trial of the plant at Daduwa-Bandli village in Devprayag area of Tehri district recently, evoking sharp reaction from locals and religious outfits.
"Can there be a bigger sin than permitting a liquor manufacturing company to set up its factory at a place where mother Alaknanda and Bhagirathi (tributaries of the Ganga) meet each other to take on the form of mother Ganga," Ganga Mahasabha General Secretary Swami Kashi Jeetendra Saraswati said.
He said there is a difference between tourism and pilgrimage and authorities should know this. "Ganga Mahasabha condemns the decision to grant licence to the firm in the harshest of words and seeks Chief Minister's immediate intervention in the matter to ensure its cancellation," he said.
Though the licence to the firm was given in 2016 during the Congress's tenure, it has been renewed annually under the BJP government which has been in power since March 2017. Locals are also protesting against the plant which has begun the trial run of bottling a whiskey brand named "Hill Top".
Himalaya Bachao Andolan convener Samir Raturi said by allowing a liquor bottling plant to set up shop at Devprayag was a crime against the culture of Uttarakhand.
"If the plant is not converted into a water bottling plant we will launch an agitation," he said. When contacted, former cabinet minister Mantri Prasad Naithani said the BJP government alone can comment on it.
When told that the licence was granted during the previous Congress government in which he was a minister, Naithani said why had not the current dispensation revoked it. Tehri District Magistrate V Shanmugham said the plant has been set up as per the rules. If people have objections to it, they will be heard. PTI