“Youngsters leave the state for jobs and education, but they should return" | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

“Youngsters will continue to leave the state for jobs and education, but they should not permanently settle outside”

Mar 05, 2024 10:20 PM IST

Meet Uttam Rawat, recently appointed co-convenor of Uttarakhand BJP unit's foreign cell, who has lived and worked in Paris for over two decades

“My roots, my childhood, have been nurtured and nourished by the mighty Himalayas and sacred waters of Ganga and Yamuna. Wherever I live or work, the Dev Bhoomi, the land of Gods, keeps guiding and blessing me. I cannot forget my roots”, says 45-year-old Uttam Rawat, who was recently made co-convenor of state BJP’s foreign cell (France). Other members of state Bharatiya Janata Party’s foreign cell include Kunwar Japendra (convenor), Varun Bhandari (co-convenor) and Girish Pant (co-convenor) — all residing in the state. The role of this cell is to coordinate with people of the state living abroad to seek their cooperation on various fronts. However, Rawat, a restaurateur, has lived in Paris for well over two decades.

Uttam Rawat (left) with Uttarakhand CM, Pushkar Singh Dhami. Rawat was recently made co-convenor of state BJP's foreign cell. The other co-convenors of the cell are residents of Uttarakhand.(Courtesy Uttam Rawat) PREMIUM
Uttam Rawat (left) with Uttarakhand CM, Pushkar Singh Dhami. Rawat was recently made co-convenor of state BJP's foreign cell. The other co-convenors of the cell are residents of Uttarakhand.(Courtesy Uttam Rawat)

On March 5, Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami announced that the state government will constitute a Pravasi Uttarakhand Board to seek the cooperation of the people of Uttarakhand living in foreign countries and provide them assistance when required.

In a telephonic interview, Rawat speaks about his business of running restaurants in France, and working for the BJP and its ideological fount, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Europe. Read edited excerpts:

You have been made co-convenor of state BJP’s foreign cell (France). How can you make a difference in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections being based in Paris?

I have lived in France for over two decades. I know people from Uttarakhand who live in France and other European countries, which I have been visiting from time to time. There are roughly around 10,000 people from Uttarakhand who live in various European countries, including over 150 in France. I am in touch with many such people whom I will encourage to participate in voting to ensure BJP’s victory in all five seats. They can also encourage their family members and friends back home to vote for BJP. Besides, I return to Uttarakhand to work for the party during election time. This time also, I will return to Uttarakhand during the LS polls. In the meantime, I will be interacting with the party leaders in Uttarakhand through video conferencing from time to time and make suggestions on various issues.

How do you plan to do your outreach based in Paris?

I am general secretary of the India Association of France, which has around 40,000 members. So we have a lot of contacts who have contacts in other European countries. In this era of social media and mobile phones, I will try to reach out to people of Uttarakhand through all mediums of communication and encourage them to vote for BJP candidates from their respective areas. I also have many contacts in European countries which I have visited over two decades. We organise community events regularly and remain in touch. I also regularly encourage people to visit Uttarakhand, which is one of the most scenic places on earth.

Tell us something about your political background.

I was born in Tehri district of Kumaon in 1978, where I did my initial schooling. In 1994, I became an active member of the local BJP unit. A year later I became a member of BJP’s district unit. In 1995, I became associated with RSS. In 1996, I went to Garhwal University for graduation, where I joined the student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidya Parishad (ABVP). As my elder brother was working in France, I came to Paris and did my MBA in 1996. After that, I went to the USA initially to work, in 2001. But I returned to France in 2003-2004 and started working in the restaurant running business. I have been working to promote the ideology of the RSS and BJP among the Indian diaspora. Between 2007 and 2009 and again, between 2011 and 2014, I was the foreign cell convenor of BJP for France. I was also head of Vishwa Hindu Yuva Vahini (Europe chapter) from 2021 to 2023.

What are the main issues that Uttarakhand needs to address?

Uttam Rawat: Hill migration is a major issue in the hills of Uttarakhand. Industrial development of hilly districts remains a challenge. Healthcare is also an issue as doctors don’t want to work in the hilly areas. Many who do, are available for only a few hours in the day. Youngsters will continue to leave the state for jobs and education. But they should then return and not permanently settle outside, they should not forget their roots. There are many government schemes which can uplift the local economy and check hill migration. But for that, local representatives have to be very active and ensure locals know about them and benefit from such schemes. I also have plans to plant sandalwood trees in my ancestral village in Tehri later this year, which will also provide a means of livelihood to some locals.

How will you find time for election work, given that you are running a business in Paris?

I have a staff that takes care of my business. I have to oversee the operations. I take over the operations of restaurants that aren’t doing well, and turn the business around. Then I start another project. I have run many restaurants here over the years like Villa of India, Bharat, Maharaja, and so on. Since 2019, I have been running a restaurant called Haldi out here. Though I remain busy, I take out time when it comes to BJP and RSS work. I returned to Uttarakhand in the 2022 assembly elections also to work for the party.

Chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami had a virtual interaction with people of Uttarakhand living in foreign countries on Tuesday. What suggestions did you give the CM during the interaction?

I told Pushkar Singh Dhami ji that Uttarakhand has many beautiful homestays, which need to be publicised at an international level. I also suggested that homestay owners should be trained in how to give first- aid by district hospital medics. I also suggested that they be trained in yoga so that they can guide tourists, especially foreign tourists to do yoga in pristine environs in the mornings. I also suggested that Tadaktal, a lake in Kumaon, near Ramnagar, should be developed as a tourist destination as it is not that well-known.

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    He is principal correspondent based at Bhopal. He covers environment and wildlife, state administration, BJP and other saffron organisations. He has special interest in social issues based stories.

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