Since the formation of Uttarakhand, declaring Gairsain as the capital as always been in question. Swagata Sinha Roy and DK Budakoti speculate that this demand is linked with the public and political ethos of the state.
The ongoing agitation in the State of Uttarakhand for a permanent capital in the small hill town of Gairsain in the interiors of Chamoli district, is once again making news. The issue of permanent capital at Gairsain was proposed by regional political outfits and social activists much before the formation of the State in November 9, 2000.
However, Dehradun was made the temporary capital as a permanent one was not mentioned when the Bill for the State formation was passed in the Parliament.
The history of the state formation has its roots in the identity of local people and the issue of development. Now, despite almost 18 years of State formation, the issue of development, employment and migration have not been addressed; in fact, they have only been aggravated over the years.
The issue of migration has been a long on-going matter with the academia and in the development NGOs sector. Today, the Government recognises the seriousness of the issue and Government website mentions that, “Migration from rural areas in Uttarakhand is a serious problem with a comparison between 2001 and 2011 Census data showing a very slow decadal growth of population in most of the mountain districts of the State.
An absolute decline in the population of Almora and Pauri Garhwal districts between 2001 and 2011 points towards a massive out flux of people from many hill regions of the State. The pace of out-migration is such that many of the villages are left with a population in double digits.
Data also points towards a high rate of decadal increase in population in districts like Dehradun, Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital and Haridwar while this is negative in Pauri and Almora districts and abnormally low decadal increase in Tehri, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pithoragarh districts.”
This shows that the Government of Uttarakhand is apprised of the situation and has formed the Uttarakhand Rural Development and Migration Commission. The official website also mentions the mandate of the Commission that, “the Uttarakhand Government has constituted the Rural Development and Migration Commission in August 2017, to examine all aspects of the problem, evolve a vision for the focused development of the rural areas of the State; advice the Government on multi-sectoral development at the grassroots levels which would aggregate at the district and state levels and also submit recommendations to the Government on various other related matters.”
Today, local political and social activists and general populace of the hills feel that the formation of the State has not been fruitful as expected and one of the reasons is
having Dehradun as a temporary capital of the State. Although when the BJP and Congress were in Opposition, they paid lip service to make Gairsain the permanent capital of the State.
Gairsain as a permanent capital is not an emotional issue but a rational one, as the premise is based on the paradigm that a capital in the interiors will usher in development in the hills.
A capital in the interior hill area will make the political leadership and bureaucracy sensitive to the hardship faced by the people, thereby improve basic amenities, viz. water, electricity, health and education.
With the shifting of political centre and the official machinery, the related infrastructure will be planned in the area leading to development through, what is called in development and economic theory, as the ‘trickling down effect’.
Thus, the whole agitation and campaign is based on the premise that a capital in the interiors will usher in development of the ‘State Capital Region’ (SCR) and subsequently the development of the State at large, particularly the hill regions.
(The writers are freelance commentators)
Writer: Swagata Sinha Roy and DK Budakoti
Courtesy: The Pioneer