NAINITAL/DEHRADUN: At least 550 migration-hit villages in
that had lost over half of their population or were nearly empty — thus officially tagged as “ghost villages” — have seen
return after decades as job losses during the lockdown forced many to come home from metros.
Among villages seeing a wave of reverse
is Saina, birthplace of Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat in Pauri Garhwal, which had been left with only two families. Last month, the third house in the hamlet lit up. Hari Nandan Singh had just arrived. More are on their way.
In Baluni village in the district, declared a ghost village by the Uttarakhand migration commission, at least eight migrants have returned. Uttarakhand has 1,700
while 1,000 hamlets have less than 100 people.
Vijay Kumar who returned to his native village last month from Delhi told TOI that he had been away for two decades. “I worked at a transport firm but lost my job due to the lockdown. I will stay and look for opportunities here.”
Bora Gaon in Duggadda block is another ghost village in Pauri which is seeing signs of life. District panchayat officer M M Khan said there were other hamlets as well where young population had returned. For instance, in Bandhoon alone, 170 people have returned since the lockdown. Pradhan Anjali Devi said the village was in a festive mood as children could be seen running through the fields once again. Other familiar sights, too, were back. Women and men now gather under trees as evening tea and hookah is passed around.
In a few villages in Almora district where more than 80% population had left, people are making their way home. Ram Singh has returned to Naini Khairi village after a decade with nine family members from Delhi. “I lost my job at a hotel. Now we plan to stay and work on agricultural fields we had deserted long ago,” he said.
Residents said that villages have recorded migration not only due to lack of income opportunities but also for want of facilities. “Our village doesn’t even have a motorable road,” said Mahesh Singh Pangari, head of Punakot village. “Since April, six families have come back, but if people are to stay, the government needs to provide them basic facilities at least.”
S S Negi, vice-chairman of the migration commission, told TOI that they were now conducting a survey to assess the extent of reverse migration. “Our initial survey has suggested that at least 550 migration-hit villages have recorded returnees,” Negi said.
The commission is now brainstorming on ways to provide employment to village residents to keep them from moving back to cities.