Once a bustling village with a population of more than 2,000 people, Saur in Tehri district was on the verge of turning into a ghost village.
Thanks to the community-based tourism project initiated by one of its residents, the abandoned village, 110km from Dehradun, has received a new lease of life.
The change has come with 60-year-old social entrepreneur Sushil Ramola starting tourism activity and involving villagers in the project.
Charity begins at home: The regeneration project began when local entrepreneur Sushil Ramola decided to restore his 70-year-old family house
A ghost village is where housing infrastructure exists without inhabitants
According to an Uttarakhand government survey, there are about 120 ghost villages in the hill state.
A ghost village is where housing infrastructure exists without inhabitants.
The bad days for Saur started some four decades back when its local residents decided to settle permanently about five km away from the main village.
People from Saur used to migrate to Jadipani (near Kandatal) and a cluster of six villages near it with their cattle in summer for pasture.
The winter village lost its charm when Kandatal got connected with the Mussoorie-Chamba Highway.
Personal project: Ramola was born in Saur and has fond memories of it
However, the effort of Ramola, who formed a company DueNorth Eco Venture Pvt Ltd, is proving to be a boon in the revival of this remote hamlet.
Ramola was born in Saur and has many fond memories of the village.
His move has made villagers resume agricultural activities in the discarded fields and a few have even returned to live in the village.
The project began with Ramola restoring his 70-year-old family house last year to launch the tourism project.
He had to spend huge money and use the expertise of an Italian architect Marco to restore the old building to its prime.
DueNorth Eco Venture will be restoring another half a dozen houses in the village.
The restoration of the identified houses is all set to kick off after monsoon.
The villagers will be paid monthly rental for their houses and the company will restore the infrastructure at their own cost.
The current population of Saur is about 45.
Ramola said: “It is a social project in which I want to contribute something for my village.
“We believe that the success of this project can create a viable model for addressing the livelihood needs of the villagers.”
Saur’s village head Mohan Lall said: “We are hopeful that our village will soon become fully inhabited.”
Ramola did his graduation with a gold medal in chemical engineering and his PGDM from IIM, Ahmedabad.
MAIL TODAY 29 JULY2013