India’s massive migration crisis
Rural areas of Uttarakhand need to be hived off to urban operators to ensure that they get suitable attention in the country. India, inspite of being the world’s biggest democracy, in over 60 years of Independence, the state of Uttarakhand continues to face challenges of water problem, lack of proper roads, poverty, unemployment, migration, electricity, corruption, inadequate public healthcare and awareness about government policies.
Fairly large-scale migrations of rural villagers from undeveloped states take place towards the developed states. We need to discuss a matter of very vital importance not only to millions of such individuals but also to the entire country. It is not the first time that this issue of rural to urban migration is coming up before our country.
Uttarakhand state has been a silent witness to big natural disasters like floods, earthquakes and heavy rainfall over the last few decades. For the past 12 months, life has been a difficult battle for Mathura Dutt Rawat, a resident of Lansdowne village in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand. He does not have enough money to build a new house, his family members are living in a house with a leaking roof. Dutt Rawat said his family was on the edge of a financial crisis as they have not received government aid despite several rounds to the district office. He being a poor farmer virtually has had no work since 2013.
According to the newest census reports, two hill districts, Almora and Pauri Garhwal show a negative growth in population. In the case of Almora, the numbers have declined from 6,32,866 in 2001 to 6,21,927 in 2011 and in case of Pauri Garhwal, the decline is from 6,97,078 in 2001 to 6,86,527 in 2011. In Uttarakhand, owing to it chiefly being hilly terrain, no general industry which could provide employment exists in this hilly area. One of the key challenges in the mountainous regions of Uttarakhand is to improve the access of marginal communities to natural resources such as Van Panchayats for fulfillment of basic needs of fuel, fodder and water resources.
The government of India has not at all been satisfactory in fulfilling any of the aforementioned and it has failed to achieve the objective in migration issues. The issues in front of us are so momentous that none of us would like to proceed in an environment of undeveloped growth or passion towards metropolitan cities. There is an utmost frankness in the hope that a solution of this migration problem can be found before it is too late.
‘There are many townships where the total number of population of residents does not add up to double digits. The condition is worst when in some villages if a person expires, there are not enough shoulders to carry him/her to the near cremation ground’, said Daulat Ram, a 80 years old, local resident, Almora.
Forest fulfils the social and domestic needs of a vast segment of the population in rural areas by providing fuel, fodder and timber to the local villagers. ‘Our government should have to make some attractive government policies to empower local communities to address their needs and try to make connectivity to improve local skills and knowledge to enhance community income generation activities and living standards of villagers’, said Prakash, a migrant villager from Kaman, Uttarakhand, who works in Delhi as local road labour. ‘I want to go back to my village but I don’t have any other choice except to work here only, I am very afraid from this monsoon as well, I lost my ancestor house in heavy rain, last year, if I try to rebuild my house so it will be much costlier,’ he added with a heavy heart.
‘Last year was the worst for us, till now we are waiting for our rehabilitation but ministers are making money, they are not interested to rehabilitate us, despite the percentage of migration has grown up’, said Ghananand, a poor villager from Dhaneta, Uttarakhand. Moreover, the livelihood options of such poor and marginalised farmers are shrinking even rapidly due to the existing stringent laws of conservation for forests. Environmental damage caused by water and soil pollution, land degradation, deforestation, and desertification affects millions of people.
‘Disaster like the Himalayan tsunami are not only confined to India but also undertaking entire world under its fist. To fight against nature is suicidal. Nature is giving warning and indication to us in its own way. Its demand of time that government and society should apply egocentric approach to achieve development rather than running behind to anthropocentrism. We need to wake up from our sweet dreams and myths untill and unless we will not be able to have dreams’, said Nanda Nautiyal, Uttarakhand based Environmentalist and Assistant Professor, Swami Rama Himalayan University.
According to the environment sector, India is facing three major problems: floods, drought and pollution. Deforestation is the main reason underlying the problem of floods and drought. If the mountains are denuded of forests, there is no obstruction to the very fast downward flow of water eroding soil along its path. In this manner, the rivers flood the surroundings. On an average, one crore hectares of land is affected by floods every year.
The Ganga and Yamuna are the two most sacred rivers in India. Brahmaputra and other rivers are also sacred, wherein people bathe and get rid of their sins and in which the ashes of the dead are immersed. There are more than 150 cement factories in the country, out of which 100 are big factories. The waste of these factories is directly immersed into the rivers of our country.
Deforestation for different kinds of developmental activities imposed long-term negative impact on sensitive regions like Uttarakhand. Large proportion deforestation in hilly area led to low sponge activity in the region, which further implicated the problem of water shortage, as less water seeping will be towards ground water. In hilly slope, if there is vegetation and trees, water will absorb sequentially step by step as runoff proceed, which can then easily avoid the situation of flood but if there are no trees and vegetation then during downward movement of rainfall through vegetation-less slopes large amount of fertile soil will also get eroded, which further is linked with the low productivity in the region. When there is low water seeping and erosion due to deforestation, the condition will lead to desertification which is disastrous for the local community.
The western Himalayan region includes Kumaon, Garhwal, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, in the northern parts, there is more of winter rainfall, and the climate is almost of the Mediterranean type. The growing of apples, almonds, cherries, apricots, peaches, pears and plums, occupies a prominent place in the agriculture economy of this region. Other cultivated crops are potato, wheat, maize and rice. Goats and sheep are the principal domestic animals and black cattle provide milk as well as draught.
In spite of all this, these people have decided to stay on because after all, who wishes to leave his home and hearth and with what expectation? Undoubtedly, other developed cities have opened their doors to them but we know how difficult the task of rehabilitation is.
The government does something, which is not only not fair to it but also unfair to the people at large. The only possible way of appreciating the problem is to know what the conditions are in rural villages. It is possible for the free government of India to take effective steps for their development; in fact they are the only one who can find a long-term solution.
The author is an economist and New Delhi-based correspondent