Migration in the hill state has been a major issue which has influenced the voter turnout during the past elections.
The assembly elections 2012 data provided by the Election Commission of Uttarakhand clearly indicates the gap in the poll percentage between the hills and plain districts. The highest poll percentage was reported 76.84% in Rudrapur, while the lowest of 55.42% was recorded in Almora. According to the experts, out-hill migration is one of the key explanations behind the massive gap of 21.42% between the two extreme percentages in the hill and plain districts. Consequently, politicians are often known to indulge in a race to contest elections from relatively ‘safer’ constituencies in the plain areas of the state, where approachability and population density are both stronger.
Sameer Raturi, an activist associated with Save Himalaya Movement which has been working on the issue of migration, feels that mass departure of people from the hilly areas has led to decrement in number of voters. “People are moving down from the hills, primarily for livelihood opportunities, which are ultimately skewing the number of voters. In fact, many politicos give preference to plain areas for contesting elections as canvassing and reaching out to people is much more convenient there,” says Raturi.
An expert says that migration, a grim reality in the state, is increasingly disturbing poll patterns. Migration is caused by varied factors like relative regional backwardness, lack of economic opportunities, small size of landholdings and lack employment options in the geographically treacherous hilly terrains.
Renowned environmentalist and founder of Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation (HESCO) Anil Joshi said that subsequent state governments in Uttarakhand had failed to check the exodus of people from the hills. “Around 1100 villages in the state are bearing the brunt of migration. However, the issue has never been on priority for political parties or their candidates,” Joshi said.
According to a survey conducted by the Uttarakhand Directorate of Economics and Statistics, 863.684 people out of every 1,000 of them have migrated from the rural areas, while 136.61 people have migrated from urban areas. The survey was conducted in 2011-12 in 390 villages and 65 census towns in the state.