One evening Dutch photographer Jeroen Staats, 36, read two stories on the Hindustan Times website about distress migration from Uttarakhand. He came all the way from Amsterdam to Pauri Garhwal to find out what happens to the land and the few people left behind in villages.
“The villages and small towns in my country are also becoming uninhabited with people moving out to cities and I wanted to know if such a phenomenon is global,” Jeroen told HT.
Seeing his enthusiasm, this correspondent took him to some of the villages where he was shocked to see the dilapidated, abandoned houses, and a number of fallow fields, overgrown with wild bushes.
People in village Balodi near Pauri were eager to share their feelings with Jeroen when they learnt that he had come all the way from Holland to know the reason for migration from the hills. Villagers showed him the damage done by wild boars to their fields. He himself witnessed the menace of monkeys.
While talking to HT, Jeroen said, “The migration from villages and towns to cities in Netherlands and other European countries is more or less to lead a modern and comfortable, luxurious life. But the migration from the hills of Uttarakhand is triggered by the need to survive.”
Jeroen said he sensed the desperation of people who could carry out agriculture, their main source of livelihood because of monkeys, boars and leopards.
Uttarakhand has witnessed a spurt in migration from the hills over last decade. Government figures suggest rate of migration from hills to plains is a whopping 86% from 2000 to 2010. According to a study conducted by Directorate of Economics and Statistics in 2011-12, nearly 1100 villages in state have turned into ‘ghost villages’ in the hill state.