Villages becoming empty in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun : Chaundli village in Kaljikhal block of Pauri district is not only proof of the disillusionment of the people on Uttarakhand getting statehood, but also a rejoinder to those who advocate smaller states for better and efficient administration and all round development. It is not without reason that the aam aadmi of this small hill state laments that he was better off when the region was part of Uttar Pradesh than as residents of Uttarakhand.

Chaundli Village on the map of Uttarakhand
Chaundli Village on the map of Uttarakhand

Chaundli today wears a deserted if not desolate look. Once a bustling village where the villagers tilled their fertile fields and one could hear the laughter ringing and the shout of children playing reverberating in the thin mountain air. All of it is a thing of the past as one by one the young and able left in search of greener pastures and once they found a means of livelihood, they took their families along with them.

Till some time back an aged couple vowed that they would not leave their roots and stayed put at their village. But it became too lonely and gruesome for Prem Singh and his 72-year-old wife who felt that tilling their land alone would not fend their needs. Located about four kms from the nearest road head, they needed more that food and a strong will power to stick to their toots. As far as the district administration or the state government was concerned neither was the least interested in their cup of woes.

It was on November 9, 2000 that Uttarakhand came into being having been carved out of Uttar Pradesh after an intense struggle for statehood, in which lives were lost, females lost their honor to the brutality of the Uttar Pradesh Police Armed Constabulary (PAC), and the people in general spent months agitating on the roads. There was utopia when statehood was declared and the general feeling was that all the ills that plagued the people were now behind their backs.

But little did they know that their ills had only begun. Gross mismanagement, inefficient administration, rampant corruption and nepotism and complete lethargy to the needs of the aam aadmi became the order of the day as a handful of inept babus and corrupt politicians called the shots. Days turned into months and then into years and the situation only deteriorated from bad to worse, and soon the people realized that there was no getting away from their ills, so they started leaving the ills.

This is when migration started. Those who had been expecting jobs for their children soon realize that the jobs were there only for those who have the right connections in the babudom or corrupt nexus between the middlemen and politicians. Those living in the interiors of the far flung heights neither had the money to grease palms of the babudom or the money power to pay the middlemen and so were no where in the race.

To make matters worse the infrastructure which should have improved vastly after this small hill state came into being also did not show any improvement for the better. Things moved on paper alone. Money was spent on projects that never saw the light of day and the vernacular media is full of a number of reports of money that has been siphoned in the name of projects that were never completed, but not one of them is being probed.

Apparently enough was enough and rather than things coming to them the aam aadmi figured that it would be better for them to move to better pastures. Slowly but surely migration became of the order of the day and families started leaving their hearth and homes to the plains in search of opportunities and better infrastructure where they at least have potable water, electricity, education facilities for the children and above hospitals for medical facilities, to make their lives that iota better.

And so Chaundli is not the first village where there is not a single resident. There are others also, where some persons may still be living but more than half or two-thirds of the residents have moved out and it is just a matter of time when they will also become deserted. Migration from the villages of Uttarakhand is the biggest problem that is staring this small hill state on its face, but neither is the babudom nor the politician the least concerned, as long as their needs are being looked into and taken care of.

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.

3 Comments

  • Are you running some kind of propoganda war on Uttarakhand statehood such that all your articles start with your personal lamentations over the issue. Do you get some monthly commission from the SP to mouth such rubbish as ‘people were better off under Lucknow Raj’? Are you even aware of basic parameters like HDI, education, health parameters of undivided UP and Uttarakhand to mouth such rubbish. Is this based on soem survey or your own random convoluted dreams? I seriously hope for an answer

    • I second your thoughts. I myself am from Meerut region of undivided UP and have been living in Uttarakhand ever since. I haven’t done any survey but with my substantial exposure to western UP( most developed region of UP) and Uttarakhand, I can assure you, Uttarakhand is lot better place to live and look forward to. Poor villagers in somewhat not so well connected regions of hills are in disadvantaged situation but they will also come out of this as soon as govt of day is pressured to act. Pressure on govt to act is much more in Uttarakhand than in UP.

  • the author is right please dont pass flippant remarks, i have toured uttarkhand several times as a social worker and every time i travel from dehradun to uttarkashi the driver days any time a boulder may fall on our car we may die, same case from hrishikesh to uttarkashi what britishers did 100 years back no improvement done and all the vilagers especially school teachers told me swamiji it was good when it was with UP becasue officials used to come from lucknow understand the problem and help now officials from dehradoon fly in helicopter and how can you understand the ground reality, population is 99 lakhs if switzerland can be improved why cant uttarkhand in china they have a 400 meter lift to climb a mountain for tourism politicians know poor illiterate and they can not revolt hence even to day voting is as per symbol of hand, lotus,cycle, elephant etc if it were to be names we can say 30000 crore rupees for election and use for development of schools and hospitals maily in villages

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