Decision 2022: Out-migration fails to register on Uttarakhand voters as affected districts vote BJP

The Congress, which had promised to address out-migration, loses in most parts of the state
Decision 2022: Out-migration fails to register on Uttarakhand voters as affected districts vote BJP

The issue of out-migration failed to influence the results of Uttarakhand Assembly elections 2022. The issue, which found resonance especially with those living in the mountainous areas of the state, did not register with voters, results showed March 10.

Take the Pauri and Almora districts for instance. Candidates from the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seem to be winning from constituencies in both districts.

The Chaubhattakhaal seat in Pauri is the most affected due to out-migration in Uttarakhand. The Congress had promised to take up the issue in proper fora if elected to power. A similar situation is playing out in Lansdowne and Pauri seats in the district.

The BJP also led all six seats in Almora, also affected by out-migration. The party is also ahead in Rudraprayag and Chamoli.

The issue of out-migration is now so serious that if it is not halted, it could change the political calculus of the state in the years to come.

This change would be in the form of there being more voters in the Terai regions of the state than the hilly areas. If this becomes a reality, Uttarakhand will remain a hill state purely on paper.

An inkling of this is provided by recent trends which show that common citizens and politicians, both, have been moving to the Terai regions of the state in recent years.

Politicians are even fighting elections from the Terai areas. Hill areas registering lower polling percentage vindicate this.

Polling and voting figures from this year’s election show that there has been a substantial increase in the number of voters in the Terai, whereas the increase in voters in the hilly areas is nominal. 

Polling has been below average in all hill districts with the exception of Uttarkashi. These include the districts of Pauri, Almora and Tehri, most affected due to out-migration.

The population of Pauri and Almora districts had shrunk between 2001 and 2011, according to the national census. Just 40,159 voters voted in Lansdowne this time. Its voting percentage was just 48.12 per cent.

Uttarakhand’s lowest polling percentage was recorded in Chaubhattakhaal at 45.33 per cent. Some 41,315 voters voted here.

Another aspect that gives an inkling to Uttarakhand’s out-migration crisis is of women voting more than men. Men in many families in the state have migrated to other states for their livelihood whereas women stay back.

Women voted more than men in 33 of the 34 seats across the state’s hilly areas. Uttarkashi was an exception to this.

The population of male voters in the hilly areas was 1,623,951. Of these 859,642 (52.94 per cent) voted. On the other hand, the female voting population in the hill districts was 1,560,869. Of these, 991,748 (63.54 per cent) voted.

The situation was similar in 2017. Then, 51.15 per cent men and 65.12 women voters had cast their ballots in the hill districts of the state.

The slight improvement in male voting percentage this time, compared to 2017 could be due to reverse migration in 2020 and 2021, according to Anup Nautiyal, head of the SDC Foundation, Dehradun.

The Foundation had recently released a report on the out-migration from Uttarakhand’s hill areas. According to the report, the number of voters in the state’s hills has increased by 30 per cent between 2012 and 2022. The number of voters in the Terai has increased by 59 per cent.

Lokesh Navani, a social activist, said the results in 2022 show that the issue of out-migration from Uttarakhand had failed to register on the consciousness of politicians as well as voters.

The politicians know that government formation will be influenced by the voters of the Terai and not those in the hills. Hence, they just pay lip service to the problem of out-migration, said Navani.

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