Younger generation forced to leave their homes for jobs
A decade ago, when Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh, Bhairav Datt hoped that his sons would not have to leave their home to look for jobs in either Delhi or Lucknow. But now, while his third son is preparing for his class X examination, his two sons are already in Delhi working in a restaurant trying to earn a living.
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“People in our village thought that the creation of a new State would put an end to migration and make life easier for us. However, there has been no change as migration of village youth continues unabated.
“My elder son did a computer certificate course but he could not find a job in district headquarter Champawat, so he decided to move to Delhi where he found that just doing a basic course in training was not good enough. We had no money to fund his advance course, so he joined a restaurant where other folks of our village are also employed,” Mr. Datt adds.
It is similar story of youths in Barabati village, a few kilometres from Champawat, which is regarded as one of Uttarakhand's backward hill districts. At least one son from each of the 50-odd families is either in Delhi, Lucknow or Dehra Dun doing odd jobs to earn a living, while those doing their intermediate or graduation hope to get some “respectable” job in some city as there is no job opportunity available in the hill towns due to lack of industry or some kind of business activity.
The fact is that the problem of migration is only getting worse as the younger generation is forced to leave their homes. It is the same story in remote villages, be it in Pithoragarh, Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Pauri, Almora or Bageshwar. Lack of government initiatives to provide self-employment opportunities, failure to promote tourism and agriculture, and lack of facilities is forcing people to migrate towards cities and towns. The problem of migration is crucial from the strategic point too as out of the 625-km-long international border, 350 km is shared with China. Of 13 districts, five are border ones. Around 47 per cent area is under these border districts.
Talking about challenges and difficulties for those living in the hill districts, particularly in villages that fall on the international border, advocate Bharat Dixit says: “Inaccessibility is a crucial aspect… government data shows that around 2,000 villages in hill districts are situated at the distance of 5 km or more from road head, while 50 per cent of villages are of less than 200 population and 80 per cent are of less than 500 residents. Moreover, uneconomic land holdings also make its difficult for growing families to sustain themselves. As high as 72 per cent are under the category of marginal holdings and 47 per cent are below the size of 0.5 hectares.”
Though the government has managed to bring some industries in the Terai region (foothills) in Dehra Dun, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar, on the hills it has failed to promote even cottage industries. Since 65 per cent of total forest area is covered by thick vegetation, the government finds it difficult to carry out development activities.
Officials say the government was hoping to exploit the huge hydro power potential to generate employment and boost economic development, but ecological concerns and delay in getting clearances under the Forest Conservation Act has resulted in 200 major projects awaiting clearances. Moreover, problems of rehabilitation of displaced people is also a big challenge as people uprooted from Tehri more than a decade ago are still to be properly rehabilitated.
Per capita income
The result of this plain-urban divide has led to a wide gap in per capita income. Notably, in hill districts the per capita income is nearly two-third that of plain districts. The per capita income (2008-09) of three industrial districts of Haridwar, Dehra Dun and Udham Singh Nagar was Rs.50,227, Rs.43,521 and Rs.33,825, while that of the remote hill districts of Bageshwar, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi was Rs.22,709, Rs.24,474 and Rs.25,379. No major industry exists in the hills, while big industrial houses such as Tata, Hero Group and Ashok Leyland have set up shop.