Bughani, a village about 35km from Pauri town, has produced two chief ministers and several government officials, but migration has reduced it to almost a forsaken place. Dilapidated houses, fallow fields and absence of youths – all signs of outflow from the village.
Bughani is the ancestral village of Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna, a wily leader who started his political journey with Congress and went on to become the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1973, and later the union finance, and petroleum and chemicals minister.
Vijay Bahuguna, who was a judge in the Bombay high court, stepped into his father’s shoes and became the chief minister of Uttarakhand in 2012. He was replaced by Harish Rawat in January 2014 after the 2013 flashfloods that killed thousands of people.
Pauri district has never been Vijay Bahuguna’s political battlefield except for the 1996 Lok Sabha elections in which he came third; Satpal Maharaj won the Pauri seat. Vijay Bahuguna later contested from the Tehri Lok Sabha seat and was elected as an MP in 2007 and 2009.
When the Congress appointed Vijay Bahuguna as the Uttarakhand chief minister, Kiran Mandal vacated the Sitarganj constituency in Udham Singh Nagar district to facilitate his election to the assembly in a by-election.
HN Bahuguna’s daughter Rita Bahuguna Joshi was the Uttar Pradesh Congress president, but she joined the BJP last year after her brother Vijay Bahuguna switched to the saffron party.
Of the 65 families that lived at Bughani, only 22 remain – and they comprise mainly the elderly reluctant to leave their native place. Most youths have migrated; the primary school at the village has only eight students on its rolls.
Like other villages of the hills, Bughani faces drinking water shortage and lacks facilities for education and health care. Disenchantment with agriculture, mainly because of crop damage by wild boars and monkeys, and lack of employment opportunities have fuelled migration.
Many houses at Bughani have crumbled, some are dilapidated and are beyond repair and some remain locked. The only signs of development are concrete roads and a museum being constructed in the memory of HN Bahuguna.
Most people living in Bughani lament that despite producing several political giants and officiala, the village did not develop the way it should have. Ridheshvari Devi, 80, the sole member of a family, was nostalgic of HN Bahuguna’s visits. “He would arrange feasts not only for his village but for all the surrounding villages, and would listen to the complaints of the people,” she said. “That type of social interaction is missing after his death though some prominent people of this village do come occasionally.”
Most people have left the village to seek quality education for their children, and the poor have been left behind, said Mahant Dinesh Puri. “Had the government provided English-medium schools and quality living conditions, many would have stayed back.”
Gajendra Singh Bhandari, who returned to the village after retiring from Sashastra Seema Bal, said had the government improved drinking water facilities, opened banks, sanctioned projects to utilise land and provided job opportunities, migration could have been checked.
“With the coming up of an NIT at Sumari, the museum at Bughani, and an archeological site at Devalgarh, this area would see better days,” says an optimistic Anil Dangwal.
Pramod Uniyal said, “The government failed to address the basic problems of the villagers. The hospital does not have medicines, and the two hand pumps, installed at the village to tackle drinking water crisis, spew dirty water because their filters were not changed.”