Vijay Semwal migrates back to his village in Uttarakhand, long considered a haunted place. With agriculture flourishing, people have started believing in themselves, writes Narendra Sethi
UTTARAKHAND: Barsu village in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand hides a grim reality: people in large numbers have migrated from there in search of jobs, and those who have stayed on manage their lives without much ambition. Vijay Semwal, 36, is an exception.
Financial constraints and the departure of his family and fellow villagers have not pinned Vijay down. He has remained committed to preserving the legacy of his ancestors. Working tirelessly for 18 hours a day, he has not only kept the traditions of his village alive but also achieved self-reliance.
The key task that he has set out to accomplish is rebuilding the community. His efforts have inspired others to follow suit, with at least a dozen houses being reconstructed in the village over the past two-and-a-half years as villagers have started to return.
In the deserted hilly village, what all Vijay has needed is willpower and a conviction that Barsu will get its due, no matter what.
“The monsoon disasters across Uttarakhand have had an impact on Barsu. The village already did not have other basic facilities, including electricity, water and roads. Amid backwardness, the villagers fretted about the future of their children. The village held out no promise. The easiest way for the people was to migrate,” Vijay said.
On March 25, 2014, After the Kedarnath disaster, Vijay along with an associate Ram Singh reached Barsu village with some food, ration and some personal necessities.
That marked the beginning of Vijay’s struggle and success. “Barsu is known as a ‘haunted village.’ We were really faced with a nightmare. In the beginning, there was nothing; even farming didn’t get us much,” recalls Vijay.
The two then brought in 15 abandoned animals from a village near a market. “We found an abundance of cow dung for manure. Our farming started progressing,” says Vijay Semwal.
With green fields all around, the villagers who migrated from the village developed a desire to cultivate in their village. This prompted them to repair their houses and start farming,” he said.
Over time, a dozen families have repaired their homes; some have new houses. “Though villagers come here only for picnic, they have kept accommodation in the city,” says Vijay.
His hard work paid off and more than a dozen villagers are now associated with him in terms of employment.
Vijay’s cultivation plan covers all kinds of seasonal vegetables, besides 400 trees of fruits, in which advanced species of malta, lemon and orange are in great demand in the market.
Vijay’s hard work impressed PWD, Jal Sansthan and other officials who brought their children, and other family members to show how farming is being done.
“Sunil Nautiyal, who is the director of Pantnagar Agricultural University in Uttarakhand, is also a native of the Barsu village,” Vijay said, his face bright with pride.
Nautiyal recently conducted a workshop in the village with 25 agricultural scientists, who were highly impressed with Vijay’s passion for agriculture.
A renewed interest in Barsu village has led people to shift back and live the life they always wanted.
Over time, a dozen families have repaired their homes and have started cultivating their fields. They now believe they have the strength to build their future.