Scarcities of livelihoods, basic healthcare facilities, lack of educational and employment opportunities and the extreme dependence on tourism sector have deprived the state of Uttarakhand of the chance to empower its people in meaningful ways.
Bhuvan Joshi is an Environmentalist and writer – based in Bhimtal, Uttarakhand.
Uttarakhand is a state that is full of natural beauty but for many communities living in the state the lack of infrastructural facilities has become a hindrance for the last several decades. The growth of tourism in the state has meant that there is an expansion of facilities suitable for the visitor raging from hotels and restaurants to adventure sports and boating clubs but for communities who live in the state as its residents not many vocational, health or educational opportunities have been developed.
This has meant that over the decades the youth of the state and especially the male population has had to go to other states not only in search of vocational options but also in order to get education. This is indeed a sorry state of affairs especially in a state where on one hand the tourism industry has enhanced public movement and made it accessible to a large section of people from other states. The remote and distant villages of Uttarakhand are populated largely by women and children who have been left behind once their husbands and sons have moved out to other states in search of jobs and education.
The difficulty in day to day existence includes walking down hilly roads for long distances to fetch water from scarce tube wells or natural water resources, collecting food for cows and cattle, farming in rough and often unfertile lands, looking for fuel and fodder in order to sustain the household and other greater hardships like lack of proper healthcare, no after-school help for children, broken roads, lack of electricity and other key infrastructure.
The paradox of Uttarakhand is that the entire economic infrastructure seems to be dependent on tourism and this has meant that many other sectors that could have been worked upon have been left been neglected. There are a large quantity of medicinal herbs and plants that grow in the Himalayas, there are select food crops and dry fruits which find the suitable temperature and ambience for nurturance, tea plantations can be worked upon, solar and wind power can be used to manufacture electricity that can be distributed to villages, mobile hospitals and healthcare options can be instituted where doctors are not there, mobile library initiatives can be started for helping children learn better, employment opportunities for women can also be generated through developing shawl weaving techniques, production of forest produce and other key industries can be made to sustain and enable the economy of the state to grow.
It is also sad that even till date children have to walk several miles to reach to school wasting much of their energy and often having to cross difficult terrains. The lack of school buses for example added with missing toilets and hygiene facilities in many school buildings have all to be worked on. The educational sector in Uttarakhand has been in requirement of serious and sustained work just like its health infrastructure where we see that immediate and sound healthcare facilities are only available in the larger settlements and almost altogether absent in the distant villages.
Moreover, the over dependence on the tourism sector has meant that there is seasonal employment that is dependent on the flow of tourists but without this it is totally redundant. Shut down shops, vacant restaurants, empty hotels and redundant business is rampant in Uttarakhand and it is exceedingly difficult for the youth to find jobs within the state.
The life for the women in the state is difficult in terms of the quantity of labour that they put into meeting their day to day needs and managing the household in small savings.
The added problems of water scarcity, lack of electricity, no irrigational equipment, difficult agricultural terrain and the lack of basic infrastructure have made difficulties more rampant than ever. It is ironic that a state like Uttarakhand is in such shape.
The government can work on a large quantity of initiatives that will generate employment, enable people to find livelihoods, develop infrastructure and enable the state of Uttarakhand to grow. The main areas where this work can be developed are tea industry, medicinal plant and herb production, solar and wind power generation, development of irrigation and agricultural infrastructure, home based industries and handmade products, marketing of forest produce and crops, expansion of education and health infrastructure and other significant areas can be developed to enable Uttarakhand to grow. The government in Uttarakhand can work together with the population in a manner in which the state cane economically grow and the people can find opportunities for education and healthcare within the state.
The tourism industry shall also grow in a manner that is sustainable with the development of the local inhabitants of Uttarakahnd. The industry has benefited a distinct prosperous group but its benefits have been exclusive. Uttarakhand ‘s villages, its people need to be empowered in ways that really make a meaningful alteration in their lives.
Children need quality education, proper healthcare facilities need to be ensured in every village, employment opportunities have to grow for young people and roads have to be built to enable people to access these facilities.
The tourism industry in several ways is aloof to the emancipation of the people of the state and is focused on money making alone. The state has to play a significant role and facilitate the growth of the people in Uttarakahnd so that they can get education, jobs, healthcare and opportunities in their own state.
The everyday difficulties that communities in Uttarakhand face can be addressed with willingness from the government to initiate projects that will empower the people. The population in Uttarakhand is in need of meaningful endeavours that will empower their lives and enable people to look for education and livelihood within their own state.
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