By Samridhi Dixit
Previously Uttaranchal, Uttarakhand finally emerged as the 27Th state of India on 9th November 2000, leading to the fulfillment of the long cherished dream of the people who are the residents of this hilly region who fought long for their identity and to be recognized as a separate state on the map of India and not a neglected part of a previously developed state. The question now is where do we stand today as a state? Has Uttarakhand managed to meet the demands of its people? Has it learned from struggles that have gone down in raising it to where it stands today? Or has it just become a once constituted, gone its way of amassing power?
If you hunt for news headlines and dig for the data on the internet, all of the googles would compel you to believe that in the past 17 years Uttrakhand has done wonders to make a recognition on the map of the country, but having been there and seen it from close, I know that the level of poverty and underdevelopment was high in the hills of Uttar Pradesh, now recognised as Uttarakhand, solely due to sheer neglect and apathy of successive governments.
The government also plays a major role in introducing growth inclusive policies, reducing poverty and achieving socio-economic development. In the year 2000 when Uttarakhand was formed, there were high expectations that the formation of the new state will bring an economic upsurge. However, these expectations were lead down because development work took place in the regions which were already developed. Both B.J.P and Congress government have come to power but none of them have fulfilled their promises and objectives.The previous CMs of Uttarakhand have failed to make a stable government which can take decisions and implements them simultaneously.
Uttarakhand has been neglected for years and it only came to light after the havoc created during the 2013 flash floods that devastated the cardinal Hindu pilgrim sites from which the government reaped heavy profits.Unlike Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand is a small state and does not have the wealth of natural resources like coal mines and mineral deposits. There is hardly any substantial agricultural land in most of the districts except Udham Singh Nagar and Haridwar. The main reason behind the slow development of Uttarakhand is the existence of sharp geographical differences in some areas of the state.The fields with good soil are being taken over and destroyed by weeds, grasses and wild shrubbery. There is lack of basic facilities like education, healthcare, transportation, sanitation and job opportunities. Also, there is little or no development in the far-flung villages. The schemes that are launched for the betterment of these villages exist only in papers and the money is not utilized for their development. While Dehradun and Nainital have high per capita income. The need of the hour is to develop the hills. Still, a major part of the state’s population is concentrated in three districts in plains namely Haridwar, Udham Singh Nagar and Dehradun and thus the development can only be seen in these areas.The rest of the ten districts in hills are as backward as they were in 1999.The interior parts of Uttarakhand like Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh, Chamoli, Bageshwar have less per capita income. The people residing in these places live below the poverty line which has lead to an unbalanced development. It had no industry worth a name till recently. There is mushrooming of private colleges and hospitals but health facilities in remote areas are still poor. Still, a large number of villages are not connected by roads.Thus, despite the data, the overall quality of life and the peoples’ living standards have not yet improved to the desired level. It’s heart-wrenching to see that the infinite dreams which are in the eyes of the kids are dying a slow and painful death. Since the villages are deprived of electricity, the children are unable to study and they are well aware of the fact that they have to live with this darkness for all their lives.
The tourism in the state is mostly tied to religious or pilgrimage places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri, in Garhwal region, and there are few temples like Naina Devi (Nainital), Bageshwar, Poornagiri, in Kumaun Region. Being associated with the holiest places and temples, the tourists coming here are basically pilgrims and they do not come to enjoy and spend like the tourists in other places. First thing is that most of these pilgrims are poor and spend only as per need, and even those who can afford to spend more also tend to behave like austere people. The people coming to hill resorts of Mussoorie, Nainital, Almora, Ranikhet, and Corbett Park, do not belong to high spenders club like the ones visiting say Goa. Thus, the growth recorded by Uttarakhand can only be seen as a failure.
One thing that may be kept in sight is that education is a priority in Uttarakhand, and every family tries to educate its progeny as much is within their means. Even today, the issues of unemployment and migration of youth for jobs have not been addressed and Uttarakhand is still dependent on central grants for its needs. Still, the major source of income is the money sent by migrants who have to leave their native place for jobs. Migration has been a major reason for hampering the growth of the state as there is ample of land for agriculture but labor is not available because they have migrated to other cities. In Uttarakhand, most of the educated and talented individuals migrate to other cities for seeking better jobs. The “Brain Drain” concept is adversely affecting the state’s efforts in launching an ambitious scheme of development.Migration is a growing menace in the hills and there are reports of abandoned houses and ghost villages
Unemployment and migration are interrelated because in order to make ends meet people migrate to other cities either for jobs or for a good lifestyle. Those who are highly educated in Uttarakhand don’t get jobs which match their profile since Uttarakhand lacks well established Multi-National Companies. And the companies that are set up in Uttarakhand only exploit the workers by taking more work from them and paying less in return. Therefore, the people of Uttarakhand migrate to other cities for earning a handful money in order to support their families. Also, the government jobs that are introduced by the state, have fewer seats which are applied by thousands of aspirants. Plus there are times when the aspirants have to wait for more than a year for the results to come just because of the laid-back attitude of the government.
Nevertheless, few things seem to have seen some good improvement in the power supply and quality of roads. Besides, after separation from Uttar Pradesh, more funds are being utilized purposefully. Thankfully, the saga of the loot of the entire grants (given by Centre for the Hills) by the official machinery is a thing of the past. Corruption has not vanished but it is certainly not high like the old days. Crime is low, and also, thankfully Uttarakhand does not face the grave issues like Naxal violence. One notable advantage is that the poor people of the state now need not go to Lucknow, as Dehradun has provisionally been made the new state capital. Besides, instead of Allahabad, the state’s High Court is now located at Nainital.
Uttarakhand can undoubtedly be one of the finest states of our country. It is called the “Land of God”, the home of Himalayas and truly a paradise on earth. The only thing that is required today is just a little effort to bring uniform development in the entire state, to raise it to the heights of success remembering what all has gone into getting this paradise a state recognition. There is a dire need of good, honest and visionary leaders and CMs in Uttarakhand because Not only the Chief Ministers of Uttarakhand lack leadership qualities but they are much more interested in scams, corruption, verbal war and accusing each other than on developing Uttarakhand. If things do not improve the way they should Uttarakhand would surely end up being recognized as a failed state.