Ahead of polls, migration of pahadis becomes talking point in Uttarakhand

Ahead of polls, migration of pahadis becomes talking point in Uttarakhand

Near a decade-long battle to carve out Uttarakhand as 27th state of India succeeded on November 9, 2000. Many sacrifices were made during this agitation demanding a separate state from Uttar Pradesh. The formation of Uttarakhand was aimed to bring development and prosperity in the hilly terrain. However, over the decades, the hills only witnessed huge migration towards the plains, which later became one of the biggest political issues in Uttarakhand.

During a rally in Uttarakhand on December 4, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also talked about efforts taken by his government to put the hill state on the fast-track of development. With assembly elections drawing closer, the issue of migration has become a talking point.

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India Today brings you a ground report from the Tehri district in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal region, where the migration rate is one of the highest.

In Ghansali area, families that lived here for generations are moving down to the plains in search of a better life. Local resident Kantilal says that healthcare facilities are quite poor in the area for instance, during labour pain or in serious health emergency, people often have to be carried on locally made stretchers for treatment. Lack of good quality education is also another major factor driving people to the plains.

Local leaders in Ghansali believe that irrespective of the party in power, not much has been done to stop migration. Local BJP leader Narendra Dangwal claims that the government is ensuring connectivity and better health and educational infrastructure for the people living in the difficult areas of the state.

The official report by Uttarakhand migration commission says the exodus of locals is a huge challenge in areas like Tikari, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Paudi in Garhwal region.

Several villages have turned into ghost towns; while few left decades ago for cities like Dehradun and Rishikesh, more have moved away in recent years.

On the way we met some locals who have seen migration from up close. Rudra, a local, says, “When there is no source of income and employment for our young generation why would they live here anymore? After all, they need a dignified life.”

Prashant Kumar, who lived in Gangar village couple of decades ago with his family, has also migrated to the plains. He took us to show his house which is now in a dilapidated condition. Prashant says his family had no option but to leave the village in order to make a living.

In 2017, after the BJP formed the government in Uttarakhand, a migration commission was set up under the rural development department. Reports on migration in 9 out of 13 districts in Uttarakhand have been submitted to the government.

According to the 2011 census, there has been very gradual increase in the population, particularly in the hilly areas. In Almora, the rate of population increase is in the negative, whereas in districts like Tehri, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh, the population growth is poor and a matter of concern.

WATCH | Development of Uttarakhand priority of this double-engine govt: PM Modi in Dehradun

On the other hand, population has shot up in the Dehradun district and in Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar, which are in the Terai region of Uttarakhand.

In another village in Tehri, several houses are locked, very few people are left in the village. Pointing to the deserted and bolted house of the Joshi family, their neighbour tells us that the Joshis moved to Dehradun for better education of their children.

An elderly man named Chintamani says political parties make promises before elections but forget to address the peoples’ problems after being voted into power. He says, “My son has gone to another state for job. Who will take care of our farming? But it’s not like we can ask our children to remain in the village when there is nothing for them.”

Lack of basic facilities and the issue of unemployment is a catalyst in the migration in the hills. Primary health care system has been a matter of challenge. However, it seems now gradually the issue is being addressed. In this part of Ghansali, community health centre has been made under the PPP model which has operation theatre, ultrasound machine, and 24 hours emergency services. This one community health care centre alone treats the population of 1.5 lakh living in many villages in this locality.

There has been some effort on the government’s part to prevent migration. Under the National Rural Employment Mission, a campaign being run by the volunteers to connect the unemployed locals and ensure some livelihood for them. The rural livelihood campaign volunteers going door-to-door in the extremely remote areas connecting people in a chain to ensure some source of income for them. Lakshmi is one of the women who has been benefited by the scheme. After some income she has managed to open an eatery in the market.

Volunteer in the mission Jyoti says that migration is biggest issue in this region and she has seen it closely. Now the government is ensuring livelihood for the people in the remote areas and the rural areas hopefully this will be a positive step to address the migration crisis.

No state can prosper without contribution of its youth. Gradually the connectivity in the hills is seen improving. Education is seeing a better change till primary level. Even the healthcare mechanism is seeing a positive change. However the unemployment looks major issue haunting the government in The hills perhaps the primary reason of mass exodus of pahadis to the plains. Water from hills generate electricity being used by entire country and so is the young blood of hills contributing in the prosperity of entire nation while the hilly itself is deprived.

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