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Hit by Exodus, Gen Bipin Rawat’s Uttarakhand Village Battles ‘Ghost Village’ Tag

With the closest motorable road around 15-20 minutes away, only one family now remains at Saina village.

Updated
Elections
2 min read

"I, too, had thought of moving out. But my nephew, General Bipin Rawat persuaded me to stay back," recalls Bharat Singh Rawat, as he gazes at the distant, dimming row of mountains that overlook his residence in Uttarakhand's Saina village.

After all, the conditions at the birthplace of late Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) were ripe for an exodus – the closest motorable road is at least 15-20 minutes away and there are barely any jobs.

Branching off from the motorable road, a narrow trail leads to Saina. 

The Quint

As a result, from the heydays of the 90s to the solitary ones of 2022, the village in Pauri district has seen its population reduce from 31 to just five.

"Earlier, people would practice agriculture here, and rear cattle as well. Slowly, they started leaving this village. There weren't any good schools and hospitals nearby. It is not there even now."
Bharat Singh Rawat, Late CDS General Bipin Rawat's Uncle

But Saina was once a bustling village. Initially, Bharat Rawat's grandfather had arrived there from the nearby village of Jawar, following which he gave birth to four sons, who, too, settled there.

"Gradually, my eldest paternal uncle had one son, two other uncles had four sons each. My father had two sons," he says.

The only inhabited house in Saina where the late CDS' uncle Bharat Singh Rawat stays with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter.  

The Quint

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No Road to Village 

Saina's biggest sorrow lies in the fact that one has to walk to the village from the nearest motorable village through a narrow trail. The absence of a paved road is not only a handicap in everyday life, but a nightmare during emergencies.

  • <div class="paragraphs"><p>The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;</p></div>

    The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;

    The Quint

  • <div class="paragraphs"><p>The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;</p></div>

    The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;

    The Quint

  • <div class="paragraphs"><p>The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;</p></div>

    The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;

    The Quint

  • <div class="paragraphs"><p>The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;</p></div>

    The houses abandoned by relatives of Bharat Rawat.&nbsp;

    The Quint

Bharat Rawat recalls an incident when one of his paternal nephews, during a recent visit to the village, had to be carried on backs of villagers following a fracture in his leg.

"We carried him on a charpai, for which I had to call 10-12 men from Birmoli. There wasn't any paved road to take him. With great difficulty, they took turns to carry him on their backs," he says.

But Saina is not the only village which has been hit by an exodus. Reports say that in the last 10 years, over 5 lakh people have migrated from Uttarakhand, out of which one lakh have left the state permanently.

This state has left over 700 'ghost villages', and about 50 percent of those who abandoned their villages left in search of better livelihood.

While the late CDS had written multiple letters to the Uttarakhand government asking for Saina to be connected with a road, he had also planned to build a retirement home in his ancestral village.

Bharat Rawat claims that the although road was approved the day the late CDS was declared dead, it is yet to reach his village.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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