Families in a distant village in the mountain state of Uttarakhand have a reason to rejoice as a new and steady source of income, other than cash crops, has emerged during the past few months. Rautu Ki Beli, a village in the Janupar Block of Tehri District in Uttarakhand is located on the Mussoorie-Uttarkashi Road. Its close proximity of 17 kilometers from Mussoorie gives it easy access to the famed hill station often referred to as the “Queen of Hills”.

Over the past few months, Rautu Ki Beli has been making headlines for it’s hugely successful business of sale of Paneer. With a population of 1500 people, consisting of around 250 families, each family in the village earns around Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 35,000 a month by selling Paneer. 90% of the families are also involved in animal husbandry as deodar, burans and pine trees dot the village landscape.

Kunwar Singh Panwar, the former Gram Pradhan, says “Earlier on, around 35-40 families were engaged in this business, but now all families in the village partake in the production and selling of Paneer. Today, each family is making 2 to 4 kilograms of Paneer on a daily basis.”

The Gram Pradhan of Rautu Ki Beli, Bhag Singh Bhandari, says, “Before the Paneer business took off, the villagers used to sell milk in Mussoorie and Dehradun. However, when they saw some village folk selling Panner in the bazaars of Mussoorie, they started to experiment as well. Over a period of time, people in Mussoorie grew fond of our quality and taste and the demand grew higher. Now the villagers focus primarily on selling Paneer, instead of investing in other dairy products such as milk.”

(Rautu ki Beli village close to Mussoorie, Uttarakhand. Pic credits: Surat Singh Rawat)

Bhandari continues, “Due to the Mussoorie Bhawan Motor Road, the villagers of Rautu Ki Beli also have easy access to Uttarkashi. This has helped spread our reach and increased our sales as well. We are also able to sell a kilogram of Paneer for Rs. 220 to Rs. 240 in nearby villages”

Meherban Singh Bhandari, a local villager, says “villagers are continuing to grow and sell cash crops such as cauliflower, raddish, potatoes, pears apples and pulam. One of the factors is the linkage of the village to a road, which makes it easy to sell fruits and vegetables to Mussoorie, Dehradun and Uttarkashi markets.”

The Paneer business has had a positive spin off. It has helped to arrest the decline in the numbers of youth migrating out of the village. Many more young people are choosing to stay in Rautu Ki Beli and help their families, as opposed to migrating to larger towns in search of employment opportunities.

The article originally appeared in the Uttarakhand daily, Dainik Jagran and was written by Mussoorie based journalist Surat Singh Rawat

(Author is the Founder of SDC Foundation)

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