Facilitating Return Migration : Uttarakhand

(Published in Garhwal Post )

Recently released provisional decadal Census results ( 2011 )  have been called ' a mixture of the expected and the unexpected. Some of the results could perhaps also be called alarming. ' The latest decadal growth of 19.17, much higher than the all-India decadal growth of 17.64 per cent, is somewhat lower than the previous ( 1991-2001 ) growth rate of 20.41 per cent. The decline in the population growth rate during 2001-2011 is much slower in Uttarakhand ( 1.24 percentage points ) than at the national level ( 3.90 percentage points ) and in the neighbouring mountain state of Himachal Pradesh ( 4.73 percentage points ). This is said to correspond  with the evidence of natural rate of population increase which has been more or less stable over the years 2005 to 2009.


        District                      Population                          Overall                        Child ( 0 – 6 )

                                         Growth Rate                     Sex   Ratio                        Sex  Ratio

                                         2001        2011                 2001       2011                    2001      2011

     Uttarkashi                          11. 75                        941        959                      942         915

     Chamoli                               5.60                       1016       1021                     953          889

     Rudraprayag                        4.14                        1115      1120                     953         899

     Tehri Garhwal                     1.93                        1049      1078                     927          888

      Dehradun                         32.48                          887        902                     894          890

      Garhwal                           – 1.51                         1106      1103                    930          899

      Pithoragarh                       5.13                           1031     1021                    902          812

      Bageshwar                        5.13                           1106      1093                   930          901

      Almora                           – 1.73                            1145     1142                    933          921

    Champawat                       15.49                           1021       981                    934          870

    Nainital                             25.20                             906       933                    910         891

    U. Singh Nagar                33.40                             902        919                    913          896

      Hardwar                         33.16                             865        879                   862          869

  Uttarakhand                     19.17                            962         963                   908          886    

The Table very tellingly shows how the decadal rate of population growth has been exceptionally high in four districts : over 30 per cent in Dehradun, Hardwar and Udham Singh Nagar and over25 per cent in Naini Tal, and moderately high in Champawat ( 14.5 per cent ) and Uttarkashi ( about 12 per cent ). In the remaining seven districts, population growth has been  rather low, being about 5 per cent or less. In two of these districts, Garhwal and Almora, it is negative. Except Nainital and Uttarakashi, the high population growth districts are either fully situated in the plains ( Udham Singh Nagar and Hardwar ) or substantially so in terms of population ( Doon valley in Dehradun district and the foothill areas of Haldwani-Kathgodam, Ramnagar and the Bhabar belt extending to Lalkuan in Naini Tal district ).

In simpler terms, even though the mountain districts of Uttarakhand were already well known for male-out migration in search of employment the rate of out migration has accelerated to such an extent that while all mountain districts exhibit substantial decline in population growth, two erstwhile 'capital ' districts of Garhwal and Almora have shown a negative growth rate. The only mitigating factor seems to be that the migration has taken place to the plains regions of the state itself. The other indicators suggest that not only there is considerable migration from the mountain districts, in contrast to the earlier pattern of only men going out, now whole families are migrating. The other disturbing area of concern, which emerges from these early results, relates to a rather sharp decline in the child sex ration, in the mountain districts. To what extent it mirrors the phenomenon of 'women drudgery', feminization of agriculture and increased poverty levels of mountain regions, deserves to be investigated through micro-investigations.(  B.K. Joshi, Census 2011 ).  

Past  Examples ( 1819 – 1856 )

Like out migration of male population the phenomenon of return migration is not unknown to Uttarakhand. Historically, there is evidence of various official interventions which were made in early nineteenth ( 1819- 1856 ) century which embraced measures like; defining village boundaries and recording of rights, improved road connectivity ( Pilgrims Road ), introduction of commercial crops ( tea cultivation ), reduction and waiver in land revenue on trading communities, judicial facilitation ( mobile courts ), collection of land-tax in easy installments, innovation in village governance ( the patwari system ), community collection of land revenue, just to name a few. Flexibilty in local administration was deliberately sanctioned to ensure that more uncultivated land was brought under cultivation and enhancement of revenue assessment was made gradual. Over all objective was to ensure that cultivators who had abandoned their villages due to excesses or absence of local governance felt encouraged to come back to their ancestral villages. It is on record that in Garhwal several villages which had been long abandoned had flourishing young forests raised by returning villagers. In the present context, besides a substantially increased burden of population and various other “push factors”, many mountain villages are being abandoned due to uncontrolled inroads made by wild animals like wild boars, monkeys and porcupine etc.

Past studies have brought out that 37 per cent of return migrants are in the age group, 20-29 years, return to their villages; more than one third returned at the age of 30-40 years and about 15 per cent returned after attaining retirement age of 60 years. Then there is a sizeable number of migrant workers serving in military or para military forces, who due to early retirement age in such jobs, return to their villages to lead rest of their live. They also seek employment in the local job market but many of them are unable to find other job. Migration for the poor households is perceived as becoming an important livelihood strategy, a coping strategy to mitigate risks of income uncertainties, whereas the better-off adopt it as a risk averting strategy ( R.P. Mamgain, 2004 ).

Cultivation of Aromatic Plants, Re-location  of Ex-Servicemen

Since the formation of the new state ( 2000 ) Uttarakhand's efforts aimed at addressing these two issues, namely, villages being abandoned due to depredation of cultivated fields by wild animals and return of a large number of able-bodied, some even skilled and experienced ex-servicemen, has received some attention. Attention paid to strengthen and consolidate the regime of medicinal and aromatic plants has found a solution for villages which had been abandoned due to scourge of wild animals by taking up organized cultivation of aromatic plants like lemon grass, tej patti etc. These aromatic plants do not need much watering ( addressing the shortage of water problem ) and they also remained unharmed by the wild animals. Decentralised small scale processing units hav been provided to the cluster of villagers cultivating these aromatic plants ( village Timli Mansingh of Tehri districts, covering 59 heactares and village Rai Sera of Pauri Garhwal, covering 25 heactares ) and this has encouraged villagers to return to their roots. Besides these mountain villages thee are quite a few villages in the foothills who have embraced the same solution. For the released ex-service men the State government set up a dedicated Corporation ( Uttarakhand Poorva Sainik Kalyan Niga, UPNL ), which acts as the official out-sourcing agency for re-employment / placement of these ex-servicemen. The latter facilitation has so far helped 11, 146  ( 2004 – 2011 ) return migrants re-locate themselves in new found jobs, mostly using their security related skills and qualities. Many of them have even registered income levels higher than their regular service, as all of them continue to receive their pensions from their earlier employment. UPNL today has a turn over of INR Rs 800 million with INR 57 million of profit available for business promotion. The ex-service men return migrants have been relocated in sectors like security services, media-coordinators, junior engineers, clerical/secretarial staff and other support manpower. As a placement agency UPNL has also provided approximately 800 Technical Grade II ( electrician / wiremen ) to Uttarakhand Power Corporation.   

These two organized interventions demonstrate that given attention, return migrants who bring with them both skills and savings, which they invest in local economy, mostly in construction of houses, cowsheds and purchase of livestock ( RP Mamgain, 2004 ), could further be rendered more durable by facilitating their relocation in suitable jobs, as has been initiated in Uttarakhand. Improved insights into the levels and patterns of migration through improved data collection on internal migration, ( Census in 1960s and 1970s followed a practice of bringing out high quality multidisciplinary village studies that provided very useful insights into rural life ), support to migrants and return-migrants by way of better access  to information, access to services etc. ultimately leading to policies for return migrants ( Deshingkar and Sven Grimm, 2004 ) are measures which now assume much greater importance, deserving of immediate attention especially in the light of recently released data of large scale out- migration and much higher poverty levels witnessed in the mountain regions of Uttarakhand.   


R S Tolia

Late Dr. R.S. Tolia, Ph.D., was former Chief Secretary ( 2003-05 ) and Chief Information Commissioner ( 2005-10) of Uttarakhand. He also served in various voluntary positions after retirement and devoted his time for Mountain Development Agenda.

One thought on “Facilitating Return Migration : Uttarakhand

  • April 23, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Thank you Sir for providing this beautiful piece of information.
    The provisional data of census has clearly shown that migration increased from hills to plains and it has become tug of war between these two geographical areas. I have tried to understand the issue of migration in Uttarakhand in my MA thesis from Doon University. This article is a small part of my thesis, please give your precious comment.


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