The name Uttarakhand Tourism - draws a picturesque scenery of mountains, meadows, lush valleys, and the robust cultural melange of people who live here. What if you find no soul in sight on the mountain villages-well it’s not fiction, it is a thriving problem.
The towns of Uttarakhand which were once bustling with locals are now a haunting sight with just a collection of empty houses-these are the ghost villages of Uttarakhand. It is a sad picture and is a cause of great concern. It almost reminds you of this quote by Rumi- “Maybe you are searching among the branches, what appears only in the roots.”
Taking swift action, the government has launched many initiatives for promoting tourism in the state. New policies have been launched by the Uttarakhand Tourism Board which promote village-based ecotourism and wellness initiatives in the area.
The recent Uttarakhand Investor’s Summit was a vision unfolding the idea of promoting the state under the aegis of Destination Uttarakhand. The summit saw proposals worth Rs. 7000 crores from the big players in India and abroad. This idea has opened the state to tourism opportunities to facilitate reverse migration by opening up job avenues for the locals.
It is not the government alone that has woken up to the idea of reverse migration. Some good samaritans are coming forward with off-beat initiatives to address the issue. Kahani.world, a local organization in one of the ghost towns approached RedFM India with an idea to paint the empty facades to establish a colorful refuge among the hills for the natives. RedFM weaved this into a dream to call the natives back home. They started by reversing the title ‘Ghost Village’ to #dostvillage. Running the hashtag #dostvillage, the team chose to start by reforming a town called Langa - just 24 Km away from Dehradun. It had just 17 residents. After a heart-to-heart survey with the locals, RedFM & Kahani.world started painting the town with colorful graffiti. Each swish of color told a different story.
In 2017 there was a consensus by the Migration commission and it brought some concerning numbers to the fore. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 700 villages had been deserted due to a lack of jobs, medical facilities, no agriculture, and other basic amenities. Location is another barrier for the natives, there is often no connectivity in the area. Less or absolutely no schools are an added factor.
A rather interesting yet concerning fact is that the majority of the youth population is serving in the armed forces. This should actually be the strength of the state that most of its people are serving in the army but the dangling numbers of the population are adding to the concern of the growing number of empty villages.
The government is concerned and so are the locals. A thorough action plan has been brought into place. Booming tourism activities and a sturdy influx of visitors in Uttarakhand can have a positive impact on these villages.
This will initiate a wave of change and attract the big fish to invest in the state. The locals will return seeking better job opportunities in their homeland. It is one step towards a new Uttarakhand and we appreciate the efforts of all and sundry.