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Gungtong, an ongoing rural-urban migration trend

The rural areas in Bhutan are deserted as more and more people flock to the cities. The trend of rural-urban migration has hit Gungtong hard, leaving behind empty homes, abandoned fields and a dwindling population.

Historically, Bhutan has been predominantly a rural country, with agriculture as the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population. However, over the past few decades, there has been a trend of rural-urban migration, with people moving from rural areas to urban centers in search of better economic opportunities, education and healthcare.

Dorokha Gup said that his gewog is facing a huge Gungtong problem, as the elderly people who have stayed back to work in farms are becoming too feeble to work. With no one to look after them in their old age, they are forced to leave their village farms barren and move to urban areas with the younger generation of children.

“The money earned by those staying back through farming is not even enough to sustain themselves nor help others”, he added.

There are 27 empty houses or Gungtongs in his village. As for the causes, he shared that a few of the houses are empty as the parents are dead and the children prefer staying in urban areas. There are also people who live in the cities, but plan to come back to the village to retire in the homes they have built.

Though nothing could possibly stop the rural-urban migration, he thinks that bringing better work opportunities would help retain the villagers.

Kurteo Gup stated that in his gewog, Gungtong is a major concern as 40 households are empty from 185 households in total. Dungkhar chiwog has the highest number of Gungtong at 14, Tabi with 9, Tang Roong-Wael with 7, Chagdzom-Chhusa and Jasabi-Ugyenphu with 5 Gungtong.

Trashiyangtse recorded 693 Gungtong in 2020, 694 in 2021 and 694 in 2022, and it has kept on increasing. Tongmijansa gewog has the highest Gungtong with 133 households empty, Yangtse with 199, Yalang with 99 Gungtong, Ramjar gewog with 87, Toedtsho gewog with 84, Khamdang with 63, Jamkhar with 57 and Bumdeling with 52 empty households.

Trashigang also has a high number of Guntongs, according to the Khaling Gup, Khaling has 120 Gungtong. Sakteng Gup also mentioned that in his gewog, there are 15 Gungtong. The reporter got into contact with other gewogs in Trashigang, however, it was not possible to get the figures.

Meanwhile, Nangla Gup says that in his gewog, Gungtong is not much an issue, and as such, not much impact is felt. Only two households in his gewog are empty. Still, he said that the retention measures, like construction of road, power supply, network connectivity and water supply need to be done.

Looking for better opportunities is one biggest contributor in rural-urban migration, he added.

Katsho Gup from Haa said that in his gewog, there are only two Gungtong cases, and this has not impacted his gewog.

It is mainly the younger people who opt for better opportunities in foreign countries, and those in village tend to migrate to urban places to seek better opportunities, so gradually even their family members start moving out, leaving farm lands fallow and empty.

Therefore, the trend of rural-urban migration which has led to Gungtongs is felt more in the eastern dzongkhags Bhutan, while the central and the western parts are not very affected.

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