De­spite drop in ru­ral pop­u­la­tion, T/gang sees in­creas­ing re­turn of prodi­gal mi­grants

Business Bhutan - - Front Page - Jigme Wangchen from Trashigang

The skies are clear and it is al­most noon. Un­der the scorch­ing sun, 62-year-old San­gay Khandu sits on the bal­cony of his old tra­di­tional house in Kan­glung, Trashigang. He car­ries a crown of sil­ver grey hair.

San­gay Khandu said that a long time back, not a patch of land in his vil­lage used to be left fal­low. “We would cul­ti­vate our fields and walk miles to carry out cul­ti­va­tion works; the land was fer­tile then.”

But now, peo­ple from all the ru­ral pock­ets are mi­grat­ing to ur­ban ar­eas.

“Young peo­ple aren’t keen to take up farm­ing and older peo­ple are dy­ing,” said San­gay Khandu.

About 62% of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion lives in ru­ral ar­eas. Ac­cord­ing to the Pop­u­la­tion and Hous­ing Cen­sus (PHCB) 2017, 21.7% of peo­ple have mi­grated to ur­ban hubs in the course of their lives, leav­ing agri­cul­tural land fal­low and houses back in the vil­lages empty re­sult­ing in 4,800 gung­tongs (empty house­holds).

PHCB 2017 states that Trashigang Dzongkhag has ex­pe­ri­enced a de­crease in pop­u­la­tion size by about 5,607, a de­cline by about 11% be­tween 2005 and 2017.

The pop­u­la­tion of Trashigang in 2005 was 51,134 and the to­tal pop­u­la­tion has de­creased to 45,527 as of May 30, 2017.

The PHCB 2017 re­ports that 13.3% of ru­ral peo­ple have mi­grated to ur­ban hubs re­sult­ing in 1,055 empty houses (gung­tongs) in Trashigang. With 162 empty houses, Bartsham gewog recorded the high­est gung­tongs fol­lowed by 137 empty houses in Phong­mey.

How­ever, Phong­mey Gup Pelden Dorji said that now mi­grants have been re­turn­ing home. “The num­ber of gung­tongs has dropped to around 120 from 130 over the years.”

Pelden Dorji said that an in­creas­ing num­ber of young peo­ple are opt­ing for agri­cul­ture which is an im­por­tant de­vel­op­ment. “Banks have played an im­por­tant role by mak­ing loans ac­ces­si­ble to young en­trepreneurs and farm­ers with­out re­quire­ment of col­lat­eral and guar­an­tor. This has al­ready en­cour­aged peo­ple to re­turn home and take up farm­ing.”

Fur­ther, he also said that small land­hold­ings are no more the cause of ru­ralur­ban mi­gra­tion as peo­ple with small land­hold­ings can lease gov­ern­ment land and carry out large-scale com­mer­cial farm­ing. “Such gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives are ex­pected to solve the ru­ralur­ban mi­gra­tion prob­lem.”

“We also try ed­u­cate vil­lagers and cre­ate aware­ness on the ills of leav­ing the vil­lages to fur­ther stop ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion,” he added.

Sim­i­larly, Bartsham gewog, which has the high­est num­ber of gung­tongs in the dzongkhag has seen a de­crease in the num­ber of gung­tongs.

Bartsham Gup Sonam Phuentsho said that the de­vel­op­ment of in­fra­struc­ture and the avail­abil­ity of ba­sic fa­cil­i­ties has pulled mi­grants back home. “The gov­ern­ment has helped ad­dress the chal­lenges of farm­ers by pro­vid­ing farm road con­nec­tiv­ity to their doorsteps, ir­ri­ga­tion and bet­ter school­ing fa­cil­i­ties and health fa­cil­i­ties,” said Sonam Phuentsho.

Ad­di­tion­ally, he also said that the gov­ern­ment has been iden­ti­fy­ing and cre­at­ing mar­ket for the farm­ers’ agri­cul­ture pro­duce which en­cour­ages farm­ers to grow more of it thus bridg­ing the ru­ralur­ban gap.

With such de­vel­op­ments in the ru­ral back­wa­ters, an in­creas­ing num­ber of mi­grants are ex­pected to re­turn to their vil­lages.

Bidung Gup Kelzang Dawa said that ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion is a prob­lem es­pe­cially when it comes to la­bor con­tri­bu­tion (woola), pay­ment of taxes and cen­sus.

How­ever, he said that with more de­vel­op­men­tal ac­tiv­i­ties in ru­ral ar­eas, many mi­grants are ex­press­ing their in­ter­est to re­turn.

The Prime Min­is­ter in The State of the Na­tion re­port 2017-18 stated that the gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ously con­cerned that ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion will con­tinue to in­crease if the liv­ing con­di­tions in the ru­ral ar­eas are not im­proved.

There­fore, the PM stated that the gov­ern­ment has been do­ing a lot in this re­gard in­clud­ing con­struct­ing farm roads, pro­vid­ing elec­tric­ity, and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices to the vil­lages, ini­ti­at­ing pro­grams to sup­port agri­cul­ture like dis­tribut­ing power tillers, in­still­ing elec­tric fenc­ing and fa­cil­i­tat­ing ru­ral loans.

Ad­di­tion­ally, in the 11th plan, 187 farm shops were es­tab­lished and 200 gewog banks were opened.

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