Fear forces migration to lower regions in Uttarakhand

Post the deluge, reports of widespread distress migration has started to haunt Uttarakhand. People from the upper reaches who were affected by the floods have started to move out to lower regions, including capital Dehradun, out of fear.

The loss of livelihood is another compelling factor that is driving people to the lower regions. Talking to Deccan Herald, Union Water Resource Minister Harish Rawat said the migration pattern is unprecedented and for the first time the people are moving out because of fear of the hills.

Rawat, who hails from Almora, said it would take time before a clear picture of the magnitude of migration emerges, but the “crisis” has to be addressed by the state government on priority. Those in the know of the topography of the region say the threat of an imbalance of sorts looms large, signs of which could emerge in the near future.

Reports that are emerging after the calamity suggest that people in the upper regions, especially the youth, are moving to Haridwar, Rishikesh, Nainital and other cities.
In about a month’s time, upper regions will experience extreme cold conditions and snowfall, which will make life without adequate means and livelihood even more challenging. Majority of the people in the upper regions, especially the ones living in villages and townships on the religious circuit, have for long been dependent on tourism.

Most of them have been rendered jobless. It is already close to four months since they lost their source of income and moving down to safer places which would offer them an alternative avenue seems the best bet. The locals along the yatra route in Uttarakhand earned a living by ferrying pilgrims on mules on long treacherous treks. The yatra routes had been closed until recently and their mules were washed away in the floods.

In reply to a query by Deccan Herald, a spokesperson of the Uttarakhand State Information Centre in New Delhi said: “Since mules form source of income for majority of population along the yatra route, the state government has increased the compensation per mule from Rs 7,500 to Rs 50,000, which is more than a six-fold increase”.

The tourist and pilgrim rush on these routes will take time before it reaches anywhere close to normal, and it is this lack of business which is forcing them to move down to other locations, at least with Rs 50,000 in their pocket.

Satish Sharma, who runs a publication and film production unit here said the government needs to push the paddle and adopt a pro-active approach to address such issues.

“The government has to put in its heart and soul to instill confidence among the people. It will not work if a mismatch exists between reality and claim,” Satish said.

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