Who Migrates to High Himalayas ?

Munsyari. Come Septemebr and its Annual Migration time for those who went up in May-June, both humans and their domestic 'wealth and food -on- hoof' ! As this writer rushed to complete his own prepartions for finalising both the Uttarakhand delegation that is going to take part in the Fourth Sustainable Mountain Development Summit taking place in remote north-eastern state capital of Itanagar and taking final call of several experts deling with seismology, glaciology and various known and un-known themes of the growing earth sciences, he also rushed to take final impressions of all those families that had gone up to the 15 High Himalayan villages of Malla Johar, including his own ancestral village, Tola.

Impact of Climate Change  

In doing so one gets regular feed-back from the families of those villagers who make more than two three trips between Munsyari and their ancestral village, mostly to attend to various calls made on them by those family members who have remained back in the middle-villages. However, the final stck -taking gets taken at the Shri Hari Smarak Krishi aaur Grih Udyog exchibition, always fixed  during the first week of November. Villagers, tourist and officials are unanimous in the view that this year the weather, as it remained below ist average hot-weather temperature, created graet difficulties in the annual repairs of the semi-permanent road and the normal route via Lilam-Bogdyar- Mapang was not only non-negotiable but made the detour journey most troublesome even for the well accustomed locals. Already bad road was further compunded by a weathr that made the unmelt-patches of snow cum ice every one's journey, in large patches, something to be quickly forgotten.

The below annual average temperature, the rains commenced May end and have not left Munsyar-Johar region even five months after, as this peice gets written, the outside weather is packed, ready to rain any time ! The traditional crops, phapar, jambu, sarson, you name it, the yield have been less than 40 per cent, at the minimum. So, the fabled jumbu is not procurable at even 600 rupee a kilo, even at the field in Malla Johar ! Bad and longer route ensures additional transport charges that hik ethe sale privce further ! Thats the Climate Change playing havoc with the High Himalayan farm economics !

The Keera Ghas and China melt-down !

Madliena, a Cambridge PhD Research Scholar affiliated to Doon University for her field work in Kumaon  villages, found to her amazement that the border villagers who went up this year in search of this new-found ' Up North ' Cordyseps sinensis gold-mine were fully aware of both the China melt-down and devaluation of Yuan as well as the turbulence caused by the Nepal election related problems. The Keera-ghas fetching any where from 8 to 10 lakhs a kilo now finding no buyers even at 5 lakh a kilo ! This ever growing keera-ghas collection syndrome deserves to be addressed early by the state government early as it is about time that the entire operations were covered by a 'good collection practice' and systematised. Surely, it has made a major difference to the idle time that was available with the unskilled labors, especially those who in any case were finding it difficult to stay on in te villages, without any government sponsored labour opportunity. However, by the time the China melt-down resulted in Yuan devaluaion and Nepalese elections resulted in disturbances, the keera-season was more than over. However, the stocks now cause problems, mainlyto the middle-men.  

Impact of June 2013

16 June now gets immortalised and becomes a major date in Uttarakhand's Environmental Calendar, competing for its space with yet another media-sponsored Himalaya Diwas, or Himalaya Bacho Diwas, 9th September. As per the newspaper reports from this year 16th June is now going to be remembered for the creating mass awareness about the natural disasters through which this nascent state has passed and suffered very heavily, suffering great set-backs which are beyond immediate recovery ? Very appropriately, the Economics department has taken on board, encouraged by its Vice Chacellor, Prof VK Jain, working out modles to measure Direct and Indirect economic losses suffered in disasters such as Uttarakhand experienced in June 2013. We are all witnessed how the natural disasters expeienced by fragile Hialayan ecosystems never get ful recompensce , from any where. It is in this context that the Fourth Mountain Summit at Itanager has kept the Disaster Risk Reduction, as its main theme. This has also kept this writer busy arranging experts who could put their heaads and experiences together to recommend the case of our mountains, as State Minsiter Kiren Rijuju, as wel as Environment Minister Prakash Jawadekar, are both attending it, as is our Chief Minister Harish Rawat. 

This summer in High Himalays, the northern-most Malla JOhar villages have seen a much smaller number of villagers, also a smaller nu,ber of foreign tourists and trekkers, than 2013, as well as 2014. The impact of June 2013 is every where, including in the High Himalaysn villages.

Who migates to Upper Himalayan Villages ?

This writer's question on migrations in the Himalayas takes a different turn altogether. While the researchers and civil society activists are bemoaning the fact of large scale out-migartion from the middle-Himalayan villages to plains, south-ward, he seeks to know who indeed migrates to our northern villages, during summer months, the only months when they are open for visits ? Desirable as it is, migration to the abandoned northernmost villages, unless we want mor Bara Hotis and the kind, the question is should it not be a major research question for our serious researchers, civil society activists and convcerned policy-makers ? As a major policy- issue there ought to be an equall, if mnot more, emphasis in finding out why lesser people are going up to those 105 villages, adjoining our international border, during te six months when the opportunities are available there.

Post June 2013, the past two years have undergone different

Early Research Findings

This writer's day ended with disparate inputs coming from two hurridly arranged meetings with the two groups of concerned people, office beareres of Malla Johar Vikas Samiti, which tracks the progress of development in thee 15 northern-most villages for last more than a decade, year after year and the organizers of Shri Hari Pradrashini exhibition, due in November first week, capped with  an hour-long session with the young and dynamic Khetra Pramush of Munsyari block, Narendra Rawat, on various development issue being planned in Munsyari. While these discussions will find place in some future piece, as these all relate to what comes, if it does in future, let this peice end with Madliena's first findings, and these does nothing to end a day in a cheerful mood. Indeed, if anything these are real warning signals of a worsening future. 

An Ultimate Refuge of the Poorest !

Hundred percent families that migrate northwards, with full or without full complement of their family members, are all below poverty line be ( BPL ). No village, at least the major villages, have no connected water facility or any toilet arangements ( making it a horrendous experience for any foreign -visitor, especially women visitor, forein or Indian ). As men do not work, except on small operations on odd crops, which also were far below their average productivity level, due to both adverse weather and climate chage impacts, almost every male is prone to local or other alcohol aditiction, made worse by extreme cold climate, which further aggravates poverty of the families concerned. Extremely poor condition of roads, and experience of 2013, and year after, the number of foreign tourists, domestic tourists has gone down drastically. This has also made the over all ambience of an otherwise mosr scenic region very depressimg indeed, sending down negative vibes to the Delhi or Naini Tal based tourist operators, who obviously think twice before bringing either foreign or domestic visitors to our northern-most villages. Youth or children are totally absent, for good reasons as there is nothing for either education or by way of health coverage for them, The youth, both from the families of some local residents and of course the expedition-wallahs, are three with their expensive cameras and videos at the ready, but the problem is that neither the number, nor the age group of those present make for  even a modestlt passable Nanda Devi temple procession ! This rare youth when shares this dismal picture of Nanda Devi festival of Milam or Martoli on return that is bound to send the down-ward spiral further nose-dive, as it does not make for a memorablia !

Have our northern-most villages become an ultimate refuge of our High Himalayan BPLs, before they, a few decades later, become the ultimate refuge of environmnetal refugees, that is the real research question in High Himalayas today. Frankly, a talk of promoting Heli-service to such regions runs shudders through the minds and bodies of those who look up to these helicopters whirring away carrying senior officers and politicians to these very same destinations ! 

What have their foreign visitors seen, minus the BPLs there, makes colourful headlines in all major national dailies ! 

Tail-piece: This is the truth from ground-zero !

Photo2233 80 Day 3 Mr Brijwal greeting shepperd on route 81 Day 3 sheep and goats flock with Tola in backgroundgallery

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.

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