With thousands of migrants, who had left Uttarakhand for greener pastures, returning amid the lockdown, the state government Wednesday began an exercise to convince them to stay back and rebuild their life there once restrictions are lifted.
The state, over the years, has seen a large exodus of people to the plains as opportunities dried up in the hills. Now, the widespread closures of manufacturing units, hotels and other business establishments has forced the migrants to return.
“The government will try to convince those migrants to stay at their homes in the hills after the end of lockdown, and contribute with their experience in Uttarakhand. They will be asked how the state government can help them if they wish to start any work here for earning. Their expectations with the government will be noted. On the basis of discussions with them, a report will be submitted to the government with recommendations to take steps for helping migrants in staying bank in villages,” said Sharad Singh Negi, vice-chairman, Rural Development and Migration Commission, Uttarakhand. Negi added that he may submit a report with recommendations in 10 days.
According to government records and officials, a total of 52,216 people returned to 10 hill districts of Uttarakhand from cities such as Gurugram, Faridabad, Delhi and Bengaluru, as well as countries like Dubai, Singapore, New Zealand and Ireland. Many of them have worked in the hospitality sector. Their contact details were taken down at the state and district borders as a precautionary measure.
Negi on Wednesday himself got in touch with over a dozen people who returned to Berokhal block in Pauri district from Gurugram, Delhi, Jaipur, Delhi and Oman. “A majority of them want to stay in their home district in Uttarakhand provided they get support from any government scheme for self employment,” Negi claimed.
Not all those migrants, however, seemed completely convinced. The Oman returnee said he was willing to live in the state, but only in an urban area where he could work as a trader, rather than his village. Another person, who had been working in a hotel in Jaipur, said he wanted to go back as he would be earning better. A taxi driver in Delhi too wanted to go back after the lockdown as he would get more work in the capital, along with better medical care and education for his children. A migrant working as an electrician in Gurgaon, however, was willing to work in his village.
Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, in a meeting with cabinet colleagues Tuesday, had said that people who have returned can be motivated to stay back through better infrastructure and facilities. Rawat is the chair of the Rural Development and Migration Commission.
The Uttarakhand government in 2017 had formed a migration commission to study migration in the state over the past 10 years and to offer suggestions to tackle the issue. The commission found that over 3.5 lakh people migrated from their homes places from 2011 onwards in search of better livelihood opportunities, and education and health facilities. As many as 1,768 hamlets in the state have been categorized as “ghost villages”-completely abandoned by residents, said an official citing a recent survey.
A source said that since migrants had been sending remittances to their families in their villages, the state government would have to look for work opportunities for them that can generate earnings.