Rural migration may alter Uttarakhand‘s political geography

Around 32 lakh migrated from Uttarakhand’s rural areas since the state's inception

By Bhagirath
Published: Friday 28 February 2020
Uttarakhand’s population increased by 19.17 per cent between the 2001 and 2011 census Photo: Pixabay

More than a third of the population of Uttarakhand's rural, hilly areas have migrated out in the last two decades, according to a recent report. The migration, an average 246 people a day, can alter the state's political geography.

The trend may lead to a redrawing of the Himalayan state’s political boundaries, including its assembly constituencies, according to a fact-finding report from non-profit integrated Mountain Initiative (IMS). In that case, there may be fewer rural constituencies than urban ones, according to the report released in February 2020.

Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh in 2000. The 2002 delimitation exercise reduced the number of rural constituencies in the state to 34 from 40 while the number of urban seats increased to 36 from 30.

Another population-based delimitation can further reduce the representation of rural areas and harm the state, experts said.

Threat to villages

“Delimitation should be only on the basis of the state’s geography,” environmental activist Anil Joshi said, citing the example of Dehradun — the number of the capital’s urban seats increased after the 2002 exercise.

“The historical importance of the struggle to carve out Uttarakhand will finish if delimitation on the basis of population occurs,” Diwakar Bhatt, convenor of Uttarakhand Kranti Dal, told Down To Earth.

People started migrating from the region's rural areas in 1930, according to the report. But the problem was not widespread. But it increased with time, especially since the state’ formation. The lack of basic necessities, better education, health facilities and employment led people to move to urban areas.

The result: ghost villages, with only eight to ten inhabitants.

Nearly 32 lakh people — 60 per cent the state's population — have left their homes since the formation of Uttarakhand, according to the report. Uttarakhand had 1,700 ghost villages, according to a 2018 report from the state Migration Commission. Around 1,000 villages had less than 100 people. People migrated from a total of 3,900 villages in Uttarakhand, the report said.

Uttarakhand’s population increased by 19.17 per cent between the 2001 and 2011 census.

But the population of pre-dominantly rural Pauri Garhwal district decreased to 3,60,442 in 2011 from 3,66,017 in 2001. Almora’s population also reduced by 5,294, according to the report.

The government’s focus has shifted from villages to cities, said Govind Singh, a professor at Jammu Central University. The government thinks development in villages with small populations is tough. Hence, the government feels it can provide services to those who migrate to urban areas.

Rural areas therefore remain neglected.

“People used to migrate to Delhi and Mumbai between 1960-80. However, a lot of internal migration has taken place since 2000,” said Singh.

People are migrating to towns, tehsils and district headquarters, he added.

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