Rural migrants return home

Availability of basic amenities at their doorstep such as farm road connectivity that runs just below their homes, electricity and drinking water supply are bringing back the migrants

Radhi gewog in Trashigang wears a cheerful look. The village which was almost deserted earlier is now inhabited again, holding promise of growing prosperity.

Over the past decade, rural backwaters saw proliferation of gungtongs (empty households), but now the natives are returning. The gewog is not just seeing an increase in population, but houses too with several new constructions in place.

Radhi Mangmi Pema Wangchuk attributes the increasing number of households and population to the availability of basic amenities and developments in the community.

About eight new households were registered last year and more than six new houses were built in the last few years. “Since I became Mangmi, I have seen many migrants returning to the village and many new gungpas were registered as well,” said the Mangmi.

The Mangmi said initially there were many gungtongs (empty households) in Radhi gewog, but today the number of gungtongs is gradually decreasing.

Radhi gewog had more than 100 gungtongs in 2012 but the number of gungtongs has decreased to about 40 as of today.

“Earlier, people went to urban centers leaving behind their villages mainly due to lack of basic amenities and lack of sources to earn a livelihood,” said the Mangmi.

But as of today, the availability of market and road connectivity, rice cultivation and burey weaving in Radhi has come as boon. “Besides, the villagers are also earning from other farming activities,” said the Mangmi.

Earlier, the villagers had almost no income as access to market was a problem. Today, almost all the villages are connected with farm roads, electricity and mobile connectivity, and have good income with many households owning utility vehicles (Boleros).

He added many more are expressing their interest to return not only to Radhi but to the other gewogs in Trashigang as well.

Sangay Chophel, a farmer from Radhi said: “When we have facilities aplenty in the villages, why struggle in urban areas?”

He also said that what he earns from his farm is incomparable to a job in an urban area where he worked earlier. “I have been insisting that my friends return to the village as home is where the heart is.”

“The gewog is also encouraging its people to focus on mushroom cultivation as an alternative source of income,” said Sangay Chophel. “It’s important to have a continuous source of income to keep people from migrating.”

Meanwhile, Radhi Mangmi said there are many problems associated with rural-urban migration including loss of cultural values, weakening of family cohesion, administrative problems during annual census and during the time of tax collection.

Radhi gewog has 21 villages with 758 households and a population of 5,437.

Jigme Wangchen from Radi/ Tashigang