Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Unemployment, migration main issues in Uttarakhand’s Almora constituency
Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Lack of health care and education facilities in Uttarakhand’s Almora Lok Sabha constituency has forced people to go to other cities.Updated: Mar 18, 2019 16:18 IST
From a hill overlooking Almora, the city seems to have expanded into a massive concrete jungle in the mountains. The Almora Lok Sabha seat, comprising the districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh and Champawat, is a totally hilly constituency that was the seat of the Chand dynasty in the medieval times.
At the entrance to the city, one is greeted by the sight of a newly opened mall, the first in the hills of Uttarakhand, which presents a contrast between the two shades of life -- the growing modernism as well as the sedentary life of the surrounding villages dependent on subsistence farming. Almora is also famous for ‘Bal Mithai’, but the life here does not seem to be that sweet on account of the struggle for livelihood due to less employment opportunities and migration.
Political stalwarts, such as former home minister late Govind Ballabh Pant and BJP ideologue Murli Manohar Joshi, have made the people of Almora proud, but the new generation is now searching for role models that would bring a name to the city in future.
Mahesh Rawat of the old generation, a retired government servant, said the talk of development is not as important as that of migration. “Almora is called the cultural capital of Uttarakhand, but where is the culture now? We are facing the worst migration as has been pointed out in the report of the migration commission,” Rawat said, lamenting that his own village near Bhatraunjkhan is half empty now due to migration. He said mere opening of a mall and shops does not usher in development as the benefits have to be taken down to the grassroots.
The voices from the younger generation have almost the same overtones. “There are no opportunities in Almora after completing Class 12 or graduation,” said Shubham Joshi, a graduate who is moving to Delhi for a job. “It is a pity that the political parties have only treated the people of Almora as a vote bank and done nothing for enhancing employment opportunities,” he said. “I would have loved to stay in Almora, the city of my birth, had there been more opportunities,” he said in an emotional voice.
Vineet Bisht, the treasurer of the Red Cross Society and brother of cricketer Ekta Bisht, said the voters of Almora have been fooled by the political establishment all these years.
He lamented that the number of doctors in the hills was very low and the government had not taken action against the doctors who have not joined the services. “The government has ensured roads to every village, but this has only led to villages getting access to cities and thus encouraging people for migration,” said Bisht.
Sonu Sijwali, a youth from Dharanaula area engaged in running a Common Service Centre for Aadhaar, said the only opportunities for educated youths are to work in shops, hotels or take up means of self-employment. “The level of education is high here with almost all youths studying up to graduation, but still there are no means of meaningful employment here,” said Sijwali. He does agree that roads have reached to almost all villages, but pointed out that this has also aided migration of the educated youth to the plain areas.
The youth have the option of taking up agriculture, but this activity has become unstable due to dependence on rains and damage to crops by monkey, for which no government has taken any concrete actions. In most of the places, the fields that lie around the city present a barren look with no standing crops.
Suman Joshi, a housewife from Kasar Devi, 8 kilometres from Almora, said increasing inflation, lack of parking facilities and unemployment have become the bane of Almora. “People are moving out to cities, such as Haldwani, after selling off their homes as there are no proper healthcare or education facilities here,” she said.
Shopkeeper Rajeev Chand pointed out that Almora has a multi-level parking, but despite this, the parking problem is far from over. “There is a proposal for a new parking in the city, but it may take a long time to materialise. The Mall Road and Lower Mall Road have been made one way but still some problems persist for the commuters,” he said
The government has set up a cardiac care unit in Almora, but still patients can be seen going to Haldwani or Bareilly for better healthcare facilities. The city has good private schools but the government schools do not provide quality education. Many international-level sportspersons, such as badminton star Dhruv Sen and woman cricketer Ekta Bisht, have emerged from the city, but still the sportspersons have little facilities in the city for practice and coaching.