Insight into the Burgeoning Migration Menace
Neeraj Kumar Pande
Historically, migration has been an all pervasive phenomenon that has occurred parallely in all urbanising societies across the world. Indian society gradually drifted economically as well as socially towards a post-liberalisation and industrialisation era. The archaic social institutions like joint family, collective asset generation and female exclusion from economic activity outside of family, began crumbling and paved the way for smaller family setups which sustained themselves through industrial incomes. Hence the sheer number of people migrating from rural to urban areas burgeoned extensively to enable an incredible growth of census towns and larger cities.
Over decades migration of people from rural and remote villages of hinterland towards modern cities and towns in search of lucrative employment and better lifestyle has occurred in leaps and bounds. While the phenomenon has occurred across the entire country, certain states because of their sensitive topography and newly established administrative setup have had to confront particularly tough challenges due to such rural to urban population exodus.
The state of Uttarakhand is one example of such changing demographic dynamics. After the establishment of the state in 2000, the commercial towns and the provisional capital city of Dehradun in particular have witnessed a major influx of population from the mountain villages in the interiors of Kumaon and Garhwal.
Several factors have been responsible for the ongoing migration of population to Dehradun. Due to the topographical sensitivity of the state and the difficulties involved in maintaining prolific crop produces each year, most farming communities have been living a life of penury. Despite the governmental assistance in forms of subsidies and better access to farming technology in remote villages, agriculture has largely remained under the clemency of rainfall. An unsteady pattern of total seasonal rainfall coupled with unsophisticated water utilisation practices have posed a major irrigation challenge for rural farmers. There is a lack of an exclusive mountain centric agriculture action plan. Most farmers barely own small fragments of land and growing an all season crop on a commercial basis remains a remote possibility. The initiatives like joint and cooperative land cultivation by farmers have not yet taken shape systematically. Most of these land cultivators then end up migrating as daily wage labourers to the city, along with their dependent families.
Besides the threat from geographic disasters like flash floods, landslides and earthquakes –which are more common in these mountain regions –often cause unexpected crop loss.
As per the census of 2011 the number of ghost villages – villages which have been largely abandoned by inhabitants– have risen especially post the flash floods of 2013. The lack of sophisticated and specialised medical facilities is a major reason several people do not want a long term settlement in villages and suburbs. Despite repeated infrastructural development initiatives in the last decade the overall connecting roads quality from interior to bigger cities like Haridwar, Roorkee and Dehradun is not sound. Even for the medical setups already established in villages there is a dearth of qualified medical professionals.
Even on the educational front, each year hundreds of students from small towns move to the provisional capital for better higher education opportunities. Further, they prefer settling in the bigger cities for high income jobs.
A better life quality is everyone’s right. However, this persistent rural to urban migration in Uttrakhand had posed multiple challenges for the provisional capital city of Dehradun. Not only has there been a rise in unemployed population in the city, large slum areas have come up on the outskirts as well.The makeshift homes inhabited by several people near the banks of Rispana and Bindal rivers are an example of the acute residential shortage. Every year in monsoons these shanty settlements are flooded by swelling river waters. This causes huge chaos and loss for the people living in these areas. The increasing number of residents has put pressure on the limited infrastructure of Dehradun. Basic facilities like clean drinking water and electricity are in thin supply in several residential localities. Rapid concretisation due to residential, medical and education demands has destabilised the delicate ecology of the once verdant city landscape. This is explicit in the rapidly eroding forest cover along Mussoorie Road, Sahastradhara and Rajpur Road among other areas. Deforestation has manifested as a conspicuous change in rainfall pattern and climate of Dehradun. The reported levels of water levels have hit an all time low due to drying river basins and increasing consumption demands. Narrow roads of the hitherto green and clean city are now facing massive vehicular traffic. This has impacted the daily life of most residents majorly. The quality of breathing air has been declining too.
The solid waste management system in Dehradun which is still in its evolving stages due to many rudimentary technical practices, has become inefficient in catering to a large population on this scale. To extend quality municipal services to a haphazardly rising population is a challenge which the city is yet to live up to.
In a nutshell, while migration as a socio-economic phenomenon is unavoidable, what one needs to be concerned about is the rising distress migration. This lopsided population growth has caused drying up of local village economy and culture and has exerted unnatural pressure on the larger cities and Dehradun in particular. On either front there is a decline in the quality of human life. The only reasonable solution to this menace is systematic intervention to improve the agricultural practices and empower the local farmers with better technology and knowhow. Besides, the Government must also invest in providing uber quality medical and educational facilities to remote villages and connecting smaller mountain towns. Only when the isolated regions are given priority and are integrated into the mainstream by conscious effort will the goal of overall and balanced growth of Uttarakhand be achieved. Read more posts…
(The author is a retired civil servant)
Monday, 24 December 2018 | Neeraj Kumar Pande | Dehradun—
Author: Neeraj Kumar Pandey
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