Balochistan: urban issues

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Rural-urban migration

Baluchistan: Intractable influx

By Saleem Shahid

Dawn

Baluchistan Intractable influx

AS far as the process of migration of people from rural areas to the bigger cities is concerned, Balochistan is a classic case.

For certain areas, insecurity is the main factor because of which people migrate from unsafe rural areas to safer big cities. It proved right in the case of villages close to the province of Sindh when bandits used to dominate life in Sindh and its adjoining wadera-controlled settlements. Kachi plains in the Nasirabad region witnessed a massive migration as bandits looted many villages and the government couldn’t protect them.

The second reason relates to the economic factor and the lack of basic amenities in smaller towns and villages. In case of the present prolonged drought that has hit the region, tens of thousands of people have shifted to the canal-irrigated areas or to those districts where the impact of drought is less confounding.

Quetta has witnessed a massive influx of people for two reasons: the city has better civic amenities and provides its denizens with opportunities to prove their economic conditions.

Quetta is the only major human settlement that attracts the rural population from Afghanistan, Iran and surrounding districts of Balochistan. After the 1935 earthquake completely destroyed the then beautiful city of Quetta, British rulers planned a new city that could accommodate a population of 50,000 people. In the new city all basic facilities were provided that continued to meet the requirements of up to 100,000 people for quite a long time. However, in the ‘70s, the situation started to change as the city was declared the provincial capital, giving Balochistan the status of a province. People from rural areas rushed to the capital and Quetta was inundated with new-comers. According to an estimate, more than one million people have come from other areas and settled in Quetta. They came from all directions, including central Afghanistan.

It is interesting to note that there emerged half-a-dozen major cities as a result of this population influx. It is hard to fathom that Turbat has a population of half-a-million and has already become the second largest city of Balochistan in recent years.

Some other major cities are Usta Mohammad along the bank of Kirthar Canal, Dera Murad Jamali along the bank of Pat Feeder, Nushki, Loralai, Pishin, Chaman and Killa Abdullah. Khuzdar is also attracting the rural population from all over.

Groups and individuals that come from the rural areas to Quetta and other urban centres face a lot of trouble.

"I shifted to Quetta from Pishin three years ago, but my family has not adjusted to the surroundings as it has no communication with its neighbours because of the language barrier," said Ali Shah who works on a private farm.

While coming to cities or urban centres these groups also pose problems for every society they try to become a part of. There are two major groups of migrants: one is the unskilled individuals who do all kinds of work to earn a living; and the other is of the salaried and lower economic class.

Then there are social and psychological problems. Social isolation like the lack of community backing and the absence of relatives inculcates a kind of complex in the migrant lot. An inferior social status and no one influential to turn to in a new place causes problems for them, especially when they try and marry off their children.

"I am facing problems in getting my daughter married as I have no contact with families that come from the same background as my family," said Raza Mohammad, who came to Quetta 10 years ago from the remote area of district Kachhi.

That is the reason why a majority of them never attempt to lose touch with their rural roots.

The influx of people will continue and may gather pace in the absence of better economic conditions in, or sharing of the resources with, the rural areas of Balochistan. Since villages and small towns lack basic facilities and the government has no plan yet to tackle the issue, the problem may continue for a long time.

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