An excellent tradition has begun in Uttarakhand, particularly Garhwal, where people living in other parts of the country and the world are returning to their native villages collectively to worship the local deities and renew links with extended families. This has been made possible because of the availability, particularly, of social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp, on which collective plans can be made and decisions taken.
These gatherings naturally involve becoming reacquainted with the condition of those who continue live here, which would inspire the visitors to contribute what they can to the improvement and restoration of the village. Those living elsewhere are also concerned about the loss of traditions followed for centuries by the hill communities and wish their children to experience them first-hand at such meets, which is another motivator.
The government obviously ought to encourage this process by making the process easier. The difficulties faced by the visitors naturally include getting the basic amenities in villages that do not have infrastructure to board and lodge many people. Self-help groups and local youth should be provided the means to set up non-waste generating camps that make such events possible. Also, local officials can take time out to interact with the visitors to see how the area can benefit from their knowledge and resources.
Eventually, it may be hoped that the much sought after reverse migration will begin in right earnest even if not exactly in the way envisaged. With the improvement in connectivity, be it highways or flights, all those interested in deepening their relationship with their respective villages and region can continue to visit and build further profitable linkages. It will also help young people develop emotional anchors in an otherwise extremely alienated urban existence.
Only time will tell whether this process will catch momentum, but it does show the inherent potential that social dynamics has in bringing about positive change. The government should be an enabler without interfering too much in the growth of this movement otherwise it would become less personal and lose the spontaneity that is making it possible.