Tackling the problem of migration in Uttarakhand through innovative practices!

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The mighty Himalayas span across 2,500 kms in India & cover the states of J&K, Himachal, Uttarakhand & North East. With Himalayan states accounting for 18% of national land coverage, mountains are the source for many lives & livelihoods. Often referred to as the “Water Towers of Asia”, the Himalayan region is a unique geological & geographical entity comprising diverse social, cultural & environmental paradigms.  The mountain regions are also, often, referred to as providers of unique bio-services whose valuations remain sketchy & unknown.

Migration, which qualifies as a deep seated socio-economic problem is growing rapidly in the state of Uttarakhand. As per the 2011 Census data, more than 2.26 lakh families have migrated from the state. The data of 2011 also reveals that out of Uttarakhand’s 16,793 villages, 1053 have no inhabitants and another 405 have a population of less than 10. Down to Earth (a fortnightly magazine based on environment issues) reports that Uttarakhand has recorded the highest increase in the share of urban population in any of the Himalayan states of the country while its rural decadal growth rate is the lowest.

What can be the real reasons behind such a massive hike in the figures of migration? Education, inadequate healthcare facilities, poor connectivity, insufficient employment opportunities etc. are some of the major reasons. Though state government has made gradual advancements in terms of connectivity and education. As per the Union District Information System for Education, all hill districts are now having at least one primary school for every two villages. Also, of the 5852 km of roads that have been built between 2010-11 and 2014-15, almost 4000 km have been built in rural areas.

Agriculture is the dominant source of livelihood in the state, but the sector has failed to keep the population intact. This is one of the major cause that has triggered the problem of migration. A strategic revival of agriculture sector can help in effective tackling of this massive issue. The low penetration of modern communication and information technology is also an important factor in this case. Due to geographical proximities, inadequate healthcare facilities is another reason. Absence of institutes for higher education is also a very big factor amongst the youth of the state. Due to which, after their primary studies, they run down towards urban cities for higher education and later get settled there only.

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Alcohol is a serious issue in hilly regions of the state, along with no opportunities for employment.

But, we are extremely happy to see that young people, entrepreneurs and government are now coming forward with innovative approaches to tackle the issue of migration. “Bhuli” (meaning sister) is an ambitious program started by two women in Uttarakhand which aims at reviving the tradition and culture of the state. The program also initiated an official campaign on breastfeeding which was targeted towards the rural women, aiming to increase the nutritional levels among the new-borns. UREDA (Uttarakhand Renewable Energy Development Agency) has come up with a different idea of setting up small community owned hydro-power dams. These dams are environment friendly, which puts an end to the long standing debate of setting up large, expensive and disastrous dams in Uttarakhand. Since the villagers will be the owners of the dam, it can be a viable economic option for the villagers too, which can help in arresting the problem of migration.

Such innovative approaches can help in lowering the figures of migration which has caused a big problem in a beautiful state of Uttarakhand. With co-operated efforts; people, government and civil society can together help in the sustainable development of the hilly regions.