Voices Pushpesh Pant Ravi Shankar Shinie Antony Aparajita Jain Hetal Sonpal Mata Amritanandamayi Buffet MAGAZINE People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment NEW DELHI september 19 2021 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Nikita Dawar, 30 Potter Moved from Bengaluru with her partner Karthik Ramaraj to Jambuneradipalli, near Bodabandla village in Andhra Pradesh “My expenses are five times less than before. There’s no Swiggy, no Dunzo. The closest store is 10 km away. So, we try to be as self-reliant as possible, be it DIY spa sessions or making up our own version of whichever dish we want.” Sandeep Desabattula, 25 Software developer Moved from Hyderabad to Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh “Since I work remotely, my move did not affect my productivity in any way. Initially, I thought I would go home until the lockdown was lifted. But I realised soon that the same arrangement works well. That’s when I seriously considered the move to my hometown. I can straight away save 50 percent of my pay by moving in here.” Return to Sender Reverse migration to rural hometowns seems to be a rising trend among India’s youth, plagued with post Covid-19 employment uncertainty and alienation. The promise of a better lifestyle coupled with tech transformation has opened new possibilities. I By Simran Ahuja and Manju Latha Kalanidhi ndia’s pandemic generation’s war cry is ‘Yeh Dil Maange More’! Professionals from metropolitan cities are moving to the countryside, including their hometowns, in a new post-Wave II trend that signals a shift in lifestyle and work attitudes of Indian youth. The skilled workforce returning to their rural homes is likely to spearhead a new tech knowledge revolution in the hinterland. They bring with them exposure to modern systems and practices which could make the difference. ‘Sweet comfort’ is how they describe their yearning to return to the comfort of small towns and rural areas. Poor medical assistance and the rising uncertainty of jobs are the catalysts for people like Jenson Varghese who cannot wait for the lockdown to end in Bengaluru. And no, it’s not just the pandemic and doomscrolling-induced fatigue that has gotten him down. The 29-year-old web and app designer cannot wait to leave the place he has called home for 29-long years—a sentiment that has grown stronger in the past few months. “I’m tired of the way the city has been treating people like me,” he says. The tone of exasperation changes to longing and relief as he discusses his plan of action for the next two months: head home to Kerala and rent a 4-BHK apartment in Thiruvananthapuram to stay with his parents as they finalise plans for a new home in the suburbs. A reverse migration is happening in urban India, a sort of return to roots. Traditionally , people have migrated towards city lights in search of greener pastures. Varghese is not alone in his decision to quit the Garden City Covid-19 . has definitely played a role. “Before the pandemic, many moved to tier-II and tier-III cities from a tier-I city . Some of them liked the lower cost of living while others wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle. But there is no denying that the growing work from home (WFH) option has accelerated this shift,” explains Dr Neethi P Research, er, Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru. The reasons for the home run are varied. Varghese reached his breaking point during a recent Covid-19 scare. “When I called the official helpline to seek help for my breathing trouble, I didn’t get a proper diagnosis. Another time, I paid for an RT-PCR test but no one showed up,” he laments. City factors like noise, traffic and the claustrophobia of high-rise living have always been an irritant. “We get better medical attention from local hospitals in Kerala. Land is less expensive in the interior regions of Thiruvananthapuram. We’re negotiating to buy a half-an-acre plot at `1.5 lakh per cent (one cent equals 1⁄100 of an acre),” adds Varghese, who will continue to freelance. “My parents are retired and I work remotely . There’s nothing tying us to the city he shrugs. ,” According to Bindu Gupta, 38, who moved back to her hometown Kashauli in Himachal Pradesh from Delhi—where she worked as a chef in a cloud kitchen—two factors vastly contributed to reverse migration: occupational opportunities and social prestige. “People like me don’t get much of either now in metropolitans. We draw a smaller remuneration back in our hometowns but purchasing power has actually gone up. I hated the culture in Delhi— brash, ruthless and corrupt. Now I am cooking in a small café, earning much less but living much better. My entire house expenditure is just `20,000, including electricity and water. I save 70 percent of my salary now.” Realty Plus, a real estate magazine in its Q2 edition, quotes a survey conducted during the lockdown period which revealed an unexpected social trend among Indian city youth. Among the respondents, who preferred to invest in tier-II and -III cities in 2020, 61 percent were end-users and almost 55 percent were aged under 35 years. At least 47 percent of respondents were focused on affordable properties priced below `45 lakh. About 34 percent were looking for mid-segment homes priced between `45-90 lakh. According to ‘How is the Hinterland Unlocking’ report by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (India), Action for Social Advancement, Grameen Sahara and other advocacy bodies, the maximum number of urban professionals migrating back to their hometowns was from the IT & ITES sector due to the WFH option. This means the birthplaces of these homing pigeons could be the next tech landscape—smaller IT hubs in days to come. Sandeep Desabattula, a 25-year-old from Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, made the big move to pack his bags for home this year. He had come to Hyderabad six years ago to study BTech and consequently joined a startup two years ago. “Currently I work as a senior software , developer with a web solutions firm. Since I work remotely my , move did not affect my productivity in any way Initially I . , thought I would go home until the lockdown was lifted. But I realised soon that the same arrangement works well. That’s when I seriously considered the move to my hometown.” What made him take the leap of faith? “I can straight away save 50 percent of my pay by moving in here.” In the city his monthly , Sohini Bagchi, 40 IT Professional Moved from Bengaluru to the outskirts, near Kolar border “Once I’m back home from work, I feel instant relief. The air is cleaner once I’m surrounded by the forest on my farm. This was Step One. Within the next five years, I want to cut off from the city completely and rely on sustainable farming using rescued animals.” Bibhuti Mohanty, 26 Engineer-turned-pearl farmer Moved from Dubai to his village in Ganjam district, Odisha, after he was laid off “When I can happily make a decent living here, why do I have to look for jobs outside? Pearl farming is lucrative.” budget for rent, food, wi-fi, movies etc was `30,000 of which half went to the landlord. Ever since Desabattula moved to Rajahmundry he saves rent , money not to mention enjoying , the greenery of his backyard and living in a 400 sq ft room instead of a 250 ft space. He was sharing a rundown apartment with creaky lifts and no parking in the city Now Desabattula . feels pampered to be living in his own room where his mom cooks his favourite dishes for him. “Recently an entrepreneur pal asked me to design a website for his venture Grand Oven Hotels in Rajahmundry I . designed a responsive, creative website with a professional feel in five days. This was the first money I earned irrespective of my job. I have created an Instagram page for promotions on websites. I am learning the ropes. There is vast potential here and I want to explore this,” he explains. Desabattula had posted a photograph of him working from the trunk of his car on Instagram. “It was shot on the Grand Trunk Road. It inspired many other friends who wanted to move back to the village.” And, two of his friends have already bought land in Godavari district to return to their native place. Skilled reverse migration is modernising the countryside which promises to rejuvenate rural economy “Post second and . stricter lockdown, we have been off to a great headstart. The local economy is reviving and is now again producing job opportunities for the local workforce. We are digging deeper in tier II-III towns of Uttar Pradesh at the moment with an average month over month growth rate of over 62 percent between June and August. And, more than 62 percent of the total opportunities are for white-collar jobs. We have also seen a decent raise Turn to page 2
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