12th December, 2020 | 4:40 PM - 6:10 PM
The pandemic has pushed the Indian mountain states further behind in the development trajectory. It has exacerbated old risks and vulnerabilities while creating new challenges such as employment and livelihood. As mountain economies are heavily dependent on tourism, exports, service, transport and remittances, lockdowns and sluggish operations have had a direct impact on the mountain states.
The economic situation of the mountains is further pressurised with the returnee migrants moving back to their homes. As Governments grapple with the issue of absorption, a survey conducted by the Uttarakhand Rural Development Department and Migration Commission suggests that over 50% of the returnee migrants are skilled in the hospitality and service sector. However, not all states have good data on returnee migrants and the scenario is different for every mountain state.
The pandemic has brought about a structural shift in the way people work, especially for the skilled workers. Working through virtual spaces has really kept the economy going but the benefits lay only to a handful of the population. As workers adapt to the new normal of working from homes, a range of opportunities have sprung up in the hills and mountains of India. Homestays have re-oriented themselves with standard operating procedures to take in long term guests. As companies have moved towards declaring permanent work from home schedules, #workfromthemountains #workfromthehills and #staycation have gained wide popularity. A certain section sees this as an opportunity for eco-tourism, as cities have built up higher pressures of environmental degradation and CoVID cases. This has simultaneously raised the question of carrying capacity in the mountains but there aren’t credible statistics yet on the revival of tourism in the mountains. Though homestay owners have attempted to adapt, many mountain communities have not yet opened up their villages due to fear of CoVID contraction. Tourism Opportunities in the mountain states are also mired with transport, infrastructure and internet connectivity hurdles. States especially in the North East will not be able to adapt quickly to these changes due to associated bottlenecks.
At this juncture, it is critical to reflect if we want to go back to business as usual or turn this into an opportunity for concrete action and transformative change. As mountain economies will most likely not resume to previous levels and more mountain people will be looking for jobs, there is now an increasing need to rebuild towards a green future.
Livelihood Opportunities and Skills for the mountain people has been a subject of discussion in various platforms and events IMI has organised in the past: Sustainable Mountain Development Summit (SMDS) – II held in Gangtok, Sikkim in 2012; SMDS - V held in Leh, Ladakh in 2016 and SMDS - VIII held in Shillong, Meghalaya in 2019. The outcomes were further deliberated at the Meet of the Mountain States held in 2020 on “The Future of livelihoods in the mountain states of India”. These discussions have highlighted the urgency in responding and mitigating the developmental disabilities of the mountain states to move towards a sustainable mountain economy.
- Discuss the kinds of opportunities that will be in demand in a post Covid-19 scenario in both IHR states and outside the region. In which sectors can we expect a surge in job opportunities? What are the necessary education, skillsets and training required for the emerging jobs? How can IHR states leverage on their rich ecology and human resources to promote a green economy through the new opportunities?
- Develop a roadmap to inform policy.