Each of us enjoys living in the environment where we were born and brought up, staying connected with the soil which has nurtured us in our foundational years, remain associated with the people who have been our neighbours in the golden years of our lives.
Such a feeling of connectedness makes us feel at home; it makes us feel complete and content. But what happens when all of this is made to disappear? What happens when we wake up one fine day and are told that from today we have to shift to a place utterly alien to us? What happens when we are said to live amongst people we have never seen before? What happens when we are told that from now on, we will be living in a completely different culture? What happens when we are told that we will not be able to hear the dialect we have been hearing since childhood? What happens when we are told that from today the food we eat will not be the same as before? What happens when we are made to realize that all of this is done to us to earn our daily meals?
The answer to the above mentioned questions would take each one of us through emotional trauma, but what if the fact that this is the plight and the reality of lakhs of people that have been born in the State of Uttarakhand but have been forced to migrate for a better employment opportunities is presented before all of us. Their plight is beyond imagination; it is easy to sit comfortably on our couches while skimming through all the news articles raising the issues of the rising rates of migration in the hilly State of Uttarakhand.
However, it is challenging, rather impossible, to empathise with those who are being forced to leave their homes behind for better employment prospects; we can’t be in the shoes of the victims of the migration and feel what toll it takes upon our mental health to leave that place behind which we recognise as a home for survival and organic existence. This discussion seeks to determine the actual extent of the issue of migration and the time to which it has set itself in the State and formulate effective public policy interventions that can provide respite to the victims of the migration and, at the same time, save lakhs of people from being forced to leave their homes.
The extent of migration
According to an RTI filed by Hemant Gaunia, over 500,000 people have been forced to migrate out of Uttarakhand in the last ten years. As a result, 734 villages have been permanently abandoned, rendering themselves fit to be termed ‘Ghost Villages.’ The RTI further revealed that of these 500,000 people, approximately 1, 18,000 have moved out of the State permanently with no intention of returning. Moreover, over 3, 83,000 have migrated in search of better employment prospects.
A bare scrutiny of the RTI reveals that one of the major causes behind the migration is the lack of lucrative employment opportunities. Let us consider a few more statistics available on the migration issue in Uttarakhand.
According to a study sponsored by the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, 50.2 per cent of the males in the State of Uttarakhand have migrated out of the State. The study further provides us with the data that 35 per cent of the total persons have migrated out of the State. The number presented in the study is alarming and calls for immediate Public Policy intervention.
The study mentioned above further highlights that out of all the persons who have migrated, 49.9 per cent have completed high school and higher secondary school, and 36.4 per cent have completed their graduation. This bolsters the fact that migration is one of the possible results of the scarcity of employment opportunities in the organised sector. Hence, what becomes intrinsic for us is to determine ways to develop the organised sector in the State.
The study mentioned above also attempts to determine the reasons behind the migration happening from the State. The study presents the data that 47.06 per cent of the migrants have chosen to migrate due to the lack of employment opportunities in the State, 18.67 per cent of the people have migrated in search of better employment opportunities, and 17.39 per cent of the migrants have migrated for employment that they have been able to secure for themselves in other States.
A bare perusal of the data provided above establishes the inference that the lack of lucrative employment opportunities in the State has been the primary reason that has been causing the migration crisis in the State.
Suggested public policy interventions
Development of the organised sector: The State of Uttarakhand can set up special economic zoned with relaxation on the rates of taxation to attract industries to be set up in the State; such factories require the services of managers, BPO, Consultants, and Lawyers etc. creating significant jobs in the organised sector. The form shall also work on its infrastructure development, focusing on road connectivity, Banking Services, and availability of electricity to attract and facilitate the operation of industries. Such infrastructural development would require the services of engineers, architects, Lawyers etc., along with the opportunities created in the organised sector; infrastructural development would also boost the opportunities in the unorganised sector.
Development of religious tourism: Uttarakhand has been referred to as the Dev Bhoomi, attracting millions of pilgrims annually; the Government can develop schemes that provide incentives to set up hotels and tourist attractions to increase employment using tourism. It would develop Uttarakhand into a culturally more robust state and simultaneously create hotel industry jobs for hotel management graduates.
PM Rozgaar Yojna: The Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojana (PMRY) was created to give educated jobless youth employment through establishing micro-businesses by the educated unemployed poor. It involves creating businesses, services, and industry-specific self-employment initiatives. The State can ensure the effective implementation of this scheme to provide employment assurances to the people living there.
Incubation centers: The State can also set up incubation centres to guide the youth at various stages of the business startups they set up.