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Highlanders in the flatlands

Times of India 25 Nov, 2002

NEW DELHI: Dayal Singh Rana, like many of his peers, left home in the Tehri Hills 24 years back and came to the flatlands to try his luck out. Working his way through menial tasks in wayside dhabas and restaurants, he finally found employment with the Delhi government’s irrigation department. Today, he lives in a flat in Mayur Vihar and has his two children studying in the Sarvodaya Vidyalaya.

Rana’s story is similar to that of lakhs of other Garhwali who moved down the Himalayan foothills to Delhi in search of work. According to rough estimates, put together by various Garhwali associations, between 10 to 15 lakh Garhwalis live in Delhi, mostly in government colonies like RK Puram, Kidwai Nagar, Prem Nagar, Netaji Nagar and Mandawali.

“Our parents and grandparents could do little in the hills. Step farming was not enough to sustain growing families and no other employment could be found in the hills. They had to come to the plains to find employment,” says Prabhat Kumar, a private firm executive. Short on money and education, some ended up doing menial jobs. Most tried to find the security of government employment. Another large chunk joined the Army. Families back home lived off whatever these people sent them. For decades, Garhwal was said to run on “money order” economy. [more]