Migration from rural India isn’t just to big cities but to tourist destinations too.

On my morning walk last week, I bumped into Alfaz. He’s from Abdalpura, a remote village in MP. He has travelled 1800 kms to Ooty in Tamil Nadu for livelihood. Alfaz is a street hawker and keeps setting up his makeshift shop where he thinks is best to attract buyers.


I found him setting up his shop right in the middle of a footpath. It’s hard to find a footpath in Ooty, firstly, so him blocking one of the few we have, got me worked up a bit. I started speaking to him in my awkward Tamil but got a response in Hindi. I was curious so I chatted up with him with a more comfortable Hindi, got to know him a bit and then advised him to set this up where he’s not causing obstruction to anyone. He agreed.


Alfaz was just there trying to cash in on the weekend that’s coming up. For folks who don’t understand the weekend situation in Nilgiris (particularly Ooty), it’s the rush days for businesses as tourists throng (and batter) these mountains. Happens most weekends, definitely on long weekends & for a few months in summers and winters. I am sure some of you visiting here on any of these days would have experienced this (not soo pleasant) rush.


As I continued on my walk, I couldn’t help but think about the vicious cycle that these beautiful mountains are caught in between. The Tamil Nadu government has been going all guns on the tourism development agenda in Nilgiris & one of the big drivers being boosting the ‘local’ economy, creating jobs. On the other hand, migrants from other parts of rural India have continued to make their way in because of the opportunity that Nilgiris’ presents compared with the inadequacies of their native.


Walk in to a very popular south Indian eatery here, 90% of the waiters & cleaners are migrants. It’s a similar situation in most hotels, restaurants, cafes, saloons, etc. The hawkers are again migrants, like Alfaz. A number of young entrepreneurs from the neighbouring states come here to hire houses to run homestays. A considerable amount of road side tea shacks & food trucks come from neighbouring cities. Even the beggars come from other cities.

I presume this situation is very similar across tourism hot spots across this country.

There are two problems here:

Firstly, we have kept loosening the belt when it comes to carrying capacity of these hot spots without paying much attention to the ecology .. with the standard ‘creating jobs’ argument. The local economy isn’t really benefitting equitably with this ‘development’ and the ecology is certainly being damaged.

Secondly, India’s hinterland continues to suffer with acute unemployment which is why folks are migrating to lucrative hot spots for their livelihood… creating a massive imbalance.

Rural entrepreneurship promoting village level entrepreneurs is the solution. Period.

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