Uneven Development : Uttarakhand in 20 years #1

This article discusses uneven development in Uttarakhand in last 20 years. This article is start of a series of around 20 articles, that deals with taking stock of Uttarakhand after 20 years of its establishment.

A few months ago, a video of Kunwar Pranav Singh Champion went viral. The video is not for ears of children. Below is the relevant portion from the viral video.

That video was emblematic of the arrogance of plains leaders of Uttarakhand and how many perceive the state as a whole. I have met people living in Dehradun who do not know Bageshwar is a District. This when there are only 13 districts in Uttarakhand. When it comes to taking benefits from the state they are, of course, the first. The hill areas have been left high and dry. This is not just empty rhetoric. I show this using govt data, arguments and facts below.

Uttarakhand Movement

The struggle for Uttarakhand was rooted in the lack of development in the hills. The forests of hills were considered as just a free resource to be exploited without any recompense. The famous Chipko movement was against such a situation, in which locals had no stake in the economic resources they had protected and nurtured. Outsider moneybags exploited forests, mines and people. Most of the leaders, workers, andolankaris in the movement came from Pahadi background.

The situation has not changed much even after 20 years. A case can be made that uneven development in Uttarakhand has only worsened. How many Pahadi entrepreneurs and businessmen has the state produced? Even the boom in land prices benefited mostly moneybags and criminal elements from UP, Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.

Uneven development in Uttarakhand : the data

But let me stop ranting and present you with data. I am confident you are intelligent enough to make a decision on your own. All the data is from government’s own sources.

Average income and District GDP

Let us compare the per capita income of people living in different districts of Uttarakhand.

Uneven Development in Uttarakhand
Per capita income in different districts of Uttarakhand.

Please see the top three districts by per capita income. It seems higher the area of plains in a district, more the per capita income. The poorest districts are all hilly areas. What does that tell you about Uttarakhand’s development model? Haridwar has a per capita income three times that of Rudraprayag and Tehri!

Uneven Development in Uttarakhand
Uneven Development in Uttarakhand

Above picture shows GDP of the districts. It is expected that high population areas will have more GDP, but look at Nainital and Pauri. These are big districts with large population and lot of plain area. There is a definite bias against areas and districts where Pahadi people make majority of population!

Agriculture

Agriculture has been the mainstay of our economy for centuries. Although majority of our population still depends on farming, its share in economy has been falling. This basically means poor farmers are getting more poorer.

Uneven Development in Uttarakhand

The data for sown area shows that our agricultural land has actually falling in absolute numbers for hill districts. So every year more people are leaving farming and shifting to low wage work in cities or factories of Haridwar and Pantnangar.

Uneven Development in Uttarakhand

The govt claims that it is running many schemes ans by 2022 income of farmers will double. The data shows negative growth in agri sector. My challenge is that even by 2030, they cannot double income by current policies.

The uneven development shows in the contrast between the prosperous farmers of Haridwar/Udham Singh Nagar and the fallow monkey/wild boar infested fields of hill districts. Check the districtwise data for loans from banks for agriculture. USN leads and hill farmers hardly get any.

Industries

 Development in Uttarakhand

Industrialization is not only a job creator, it also leads to better standard of life. Uttarakhand claims great increase in industries. Where were these industries established? Where are the SIDCUL parks for hills? Even if you see the data above, you will see a very low growth rate for manufacturing.

Health and Education facilities

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The above composite index ranks districts on basis of multiple indicators. Read the data and you will see the condition of hill districts. This is the condition of Pahadis in a hill state! Again, the hill districts are at the bottom of development indicators.

Infrastructure

One does not need government data to see the difference in infrastructure in hill and plain areas of Uttarakhand. It includes roads, bridges, power as well as digital connectivity. As a result, this lack of focus on hill infrastructure will keep the hills poor even in future. Currently, there is a lockdown. Compare between a hill student and a student in plains. Who is likely to be befitted by the online classes?

Without infrastructure, how will the industries be established, how the products shipped to markets and so on?

Reservation benefits

Every month, you can see news of people against whom inquiry is instituted as they took reservation on fake certificates. Most of these people are from UP who with help of their relatives in Haridwar, got into reserved posts of Uttarakhand.
Leaving aside these fake cases, which are in thousands, benefits of reservation have been snatched by people from plains and have not properly reached hills. The condition of scheduled castes in hills is deplorable even today. It is shocking that even today untouchability is practiced in many areas and temple entry is still a dream.

Why uneven development in Uttarakhand?

Let me enumerate a few reasons why this is happening in Uttarakhand. After all, it is important to know the reasons. The easy way would be villify all plains people. That would also be incorrect. The reasons are more in lazy bureaucracy, vested interests and visionless leaders..

The easiest way out

It is obviously easy to show development works in plain areas. There are no issues in infrastructure, lots of land is available, connectivity with outside world is already good and industrialists do not have to be convinced much. Just show them cheap land and they will start a factory.

Political leaders of Uttrakhand have bypassed hills because it will take hard work to convince industrialists to establish factories there. Before that, they will have to actually ensure power, water, roads for hills.  The easy way out is develop an already developed area and claim lauraels for themselves.

Vested interests

With making Dehradun capital, there was a land boom. Similar rise in prices was seen in other plain areas. Powerful people : corrupt leaders, bureaucrats and their friends purchased land of locals at cheap prices and even today are making obscene amounts of money.

These vested interests are against shifting capital to Gairsain{although many have purchased land even there}. They ensured that plain areas got all facilities. Of course, there is only so much money with the government and the hill areas are left high and dry.

Bureaucracy

The bureaucracy of Uttarakhand is anti-Uttarakhand. Most of the officers and staff, in state services, are from other states and do not have an emotional connect with the state. They try to avoid posting in hill areas and have no interest in its development. I will write in a future article, how on many occasions, officers have actively worked against the interests of the state.

Conclusion

I hope this post not only shows you statistics, but also corroborates your own observations. The future of Uttarakhand hangs in balance now. Despite using our natural resources, sacrifices of our youth at the border and having an educated population, we do not get fair share of central resources. Our neighbour Himachal, which had 95%  hill area has better hill infrastructure and better per capita income than hilly districts of Uttarakhand.

They may show you this image below, but please remember the percapita income in Uttarakhand for hill districts is closer to UP than that of Himachal.

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The solution to this uneven development in Uttarakhand can only be in correction of vision of government. Unfortunately, the current government is high on rhetoric and low on substance. I have not met a single person who says current CM has done any good for the state. That says a lot about his popularity and his efforts.

I have not been able to include detailed solutions here. I will however write a detailed post outlining policies for turnaround of Uttarakhand in coming weeks.  Please do comment and give your suggestions in the comments below.

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3 Replies to “Uneven Development : Uttarakhand in 20 years #1”

  1. Precise description of bad state of development in hill districts in comparison to plains of same state. Keep it up dear. Nice and thought provoking reading.

    1. Dear Virendra ji,
      Thank you very much for reading and for your kind words. I will continue this weekly series until August.
      Regards,
      Pawan

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