Lack of irrigation facility, menace of wild animals coupled with government apathy are forcing people in villages of Pauri district to migrate to others place for livelihood. Migration rate is so high in the hill district that 341 villages became uninhabited.
Migration has increased rapidly since formation of Uttarakhand in 2000. People in hills are worried that if migration continues for next few years, their representation in the state assembly would drastically fall during next delimitation of constituencies.
The hill state will hold election to the 70-member assembly early next year and migration has emerged as one of the main poll issues.
Bilkhet village, which falls under Pauri assembly constituency, was once known for lush green files. More than half of its population has already left due to lack of irrigation facility and menace of wild boars and monkeys. Surprisingly, Bilkhet bagged the National Panchayat Raj award for being an ideal village in 2014.
“Only 10% of the fields in the village are cultivated. An irrigation canal built during the British rule had broken down a few years ago. Agriculture is now dependent only on rain water,” said Sudarshan Naithani, who runs a tea stall in Bilkhet.
Mahimanand, a farmer at Bilkhet, said lack of alternative employment opportunities, quality education and health services were driving people away from their homes. Bichri Lal, a former sarpanch of the village, said more than 50% of the families have already migrated to plains.
Sila village, which falls under Chaubattakhal assembly constituency, is situated on the bank of Nayar River and once it was famous for growing up to 30 quintals of paddy in a season. The village, however, is facing disenchantment with agriculture due to menace of wild animals.
Only 45 families are living in the village as more than 50% of people have already shifted to cities for earning a livelihood, said 87-year-old Satya Prasad Dobriyal, an ex-serviceman. Dindyal, a farmer, said work opportunity under MNREGA was decreasing day by day.
Successive governments in the past 16 years have expressed their concern about the issue of migration from the hills but failed to arrest causes behind it, said a villager wishing not to be named.
Pauri constituency is represented by Congress leader Sunder Lal Mandarwal, who is the advisor to the chief minister, in the outgoing state assembly while BJP’s Tirath Singh Rawat is the MLA from Chaubattakhal constituency.
Bharat Singh and his wife are lone inhabitants of Sain village the district. Singh happens to be a uncle of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, who will assume the charge of Indian Army early next year. Sain village is under Lansdowne constituency and BJP’s Dilip Singh represent it in the assembly.
Besides Pauri Garhwal, districts like Chamoli, Uttarkashi, Tehri, Almora, Pithoragarh, Almora and Champawat are witnessing rapid migration from hill villages.