Ghost villages of Uttarakhand turning into poachers den

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Dehra Dun : Migration from the villages, especially those located in the higher reaches of this small hill state along the boundary that the country shares with its neighbors, is not only the concern of the Uttarakhand government but the various intelligence agencies and the state forest department.

The villages are slowly but surely wearing a deserted look as most of the villagers are migrating in search of better opportunities and better facilities to the plans. The hopes that statehood will improve their lot with employment opportunities for the youth and better living conditions has not materialized as successive government have simply failed to live up to the expectations of the masses and make some improvements at the grassroot level.

Even though chief minister Harish Rawat has given the slogan of ‘hito pahad’ (go to the hills) but there is nothing for the villagers in the higher reaches of the state to make them return to their villages. There are roads, no medical and educational facilities, no electricity and water on taps, no job opportunities because of which there is just disillusionment amongst the people.

For the various intelligence agencies it is a problem now to gather information on the movement of the forces of the neighboring countries along the borders. First the villagers use to report any movement close to the borders to the concerned agencies and they were the eyes and ears of the intelligence agencies.

Uttarkhand

What is causing concern to the forest department is the fact that the empty houses in the villages of the higher reaches are now being occupied by poachers, who are having a field day in hunting some of the endangered species like the musk deer and the hard to get snow leopard, whose skin is worth its weight in gold in the international market.

In fact, the poachers have now even resorted to setting fires in the lower periphery of the forests and lie in wait for the animal at vintage points in the higher areas. As the animals move upwards to save themselves from the fires, they fall easy prey to the poachers lying in wait.

Informed sources said that the state forest department was aware of the fact that the number of fires in the higher reaches of the state were not natural but man made and as there are hardly any people living in the villages in the higher reaches, the fires are in all probability being resorted to by poachers with a view to get the prized animals as the musk deer.

“The higher officials of the state forest department and wildlife wing are aware of this fact and department staff has been asked to move to the villages in the higher reaches and check who are living there. There is also suspicion that the poachers may not be from India alone, but also from neighboring countries, who taking advantage of the empty villages may be making a fast buck by killing animals and taking away the musk pods are skins”, they claimed.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand).

Jagdish has worked with India’s leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications.

A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award.

He lives in Dehra Dun.

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