State of Uttarakhand : Industrial Hemp Policy, Ghost Villages and Migration

With the introduction of hemp policy in 2016, the State Government of Uttarakhand became first hemp-friendly State in India. Following it, the State of Uttar Pradesh and now Himachal Pradesh also opened their doors for hemp.

Hemp policy in Uttarakhand is the first-ever hemp policy implemented for cultivation. It is the Industrial hemp policy for commercial and industrial research purposes. 

Industrial Hemp is made up of varieties of Cannabis Sativa that contain less than 0.3% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The United States of America has set the ratio of 0.3% THC as part of a set of regulations under the Farm Bill, 2018. Other countries have implemented it as well. The Government of India has also adopted the ratio of 0.3% THC for industrial hemp.

Hemp is an annual broadleaf plant with a taproot and is capable of rapid growth under ideal growing conditions. All parts of the industrial hemp plants are usable i.e. stems, roots, leaves, and seeds.

Hemp is used to making a variety of products like textile, fiber, paper, plastic and the list goes on. Cannabis seeds have been used as food in Uttarakhand for years, cooked with potato flakes in almost every household. High amounts of protein are also found in it.

India is an agrarian land. It is one of the top most countries producing major fruits, dry fruits, vegetables and other crops. Census 2011 says there are 118.9 million cultivators across the country or 24.6% of the total workforce of over 481 million.

Rural India is majorly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. If hemp cultivation is increased in the country it could be a major development in the economic condition of the farmers. 

One of the motives for the introduction of the industrial hemp policy in Uttarakhand is to revive the mountain life in the State. The hills of Uttarakhand have the most beautiful sight.

At the same time, it has been one of the least developed States. The lack of basic necessities of life makes the villages of the State inhabitable.

What Makes These Villages Inhabitable or More Popularly Known as “Ghost Villages”?

Life is so poor in the villages of Uttarakhand that either there is no means of earnings or due to wildlife; there is a danger to life and livestock. The basic necessities of life i.e. water, food, and shelter are not available. It is estimated that there are around 1700 “ghost villages” in Uttarakhand.

Ghost village means the entire population of the village has abandoned their homes and has moved to a town or city in search of a better life for themselves and their families.

The condition of these villages is such that people are ready to stay in the slums of the cities and leave the clean breathable air of the hills.

Is There a Chance to Revive These Ghost Villages and Bring Back Life in These Hills?

One can always try. One such initiative was the introduction of the industrial hemp policy. The government aimed to provide livelihood where the plant grows in abundance in the hills and has been a part of the lives of the people, their ancestors, culture, and history.

The ever-growing demand for industrial hemp in the world could be an economic boom for the State of Uttarakhand. With the local farmers cultivating the plant, it wins them a fair price, a livelihood, and a reason to stay in their own land in the hills.

It is estimated that annual revenues from hemp textiles in Uttarakhand will equal Rs.240 crore while a farmer who grows hemp will earn approximately Rs.1 lakh annually from its sale. 

How Can One Benefit From the Industrial Hemp Policy Introduced in the State?

State of Uttarakhand Industrial Hemp Policy Rural
Uttarakhand Woman Working with Cotton

To cultivate industrial hemp in Uttarakhand, one needs to apply for a license provided under policy no. 639/XXIII/2016/04(02)2016. It is popularly known as the bhang policy. The license applied is through the excise department of the State.   

As a prerequisite one needs to own land or have a registered lease of land in the State of Uttarakhand for applying for the license to cultivate industrial hemp. The Form is IHC-A1 and A2 for applying for the license.

Next, the State Excise Department and the office of the District Magistrate need to be approached for the procurement of the license. Once the license is granted, the licensee requires government-recommended seeds of 0.3% THC level for the cultivation of industrial hemp.

How Effective is the Hemp Policy?

The theory and the story behind framing the policy for industrial hemp are commendable but how effective the policy is, if it is reaching the people in need, the number of farmers who have benefited from it, and so on are some of the questions that need answers.

There are entities that are working in association with the government. Projects like Bombay Hemp Co (BOHECO) and the Indian Industrial Hemp Association (IIHA) are working for the cultivation of industrial hemp, educating the people, and helping them set up the units in the State.  

We spoke to Dr. HK Bagwari from Garhwal, Uttarakhand who runs an NGO called “Mandakini – Women Weavers of Garhwal” in association with Hemp Foundation. Dr. Bagwari discussed how he has been working with the women of the Himalayan region.

He is trying to help them learn to earn a living in the burdensome areas of Uttarakhand. The Mandakini women weavers are an initiative to empower women economically and set up a vibrant entrepreneurial business model for handlooms and handicrafts.

We asked Dr. Bagwari about how the introduction of the hemp policy has changed life in the hills, to which he stated, The policy is a forward move for betterment in the State. Industrial hemp can be a game-changer in the hills. But the problem lies with the procurement of the seeds in the area. How would we cultivate hemp if the government authorized seeds of 0.03% THC level are not available?”

He further stated, Hemp processing units are not available in the hills and so is the raw material, making it impracticable to cultivate and produce industrial hemp-based products.”

This is the problem in the operation of the policy, raw materials are being imported or procured from different parts rather than being grown in the hills of Uttarakhand and there are no processing units in the hills. Thus, making them outsource the process.

The State of Uttarakhand developed the hemp policy with a focus on sustainable development that will boost the fortunes of farmers and breathe new life into struggling local economies.

It could lead many villagers to migrate back to their villages and provide them a livelihood. Not only would it present a means to earn livelihood to the migrant villagers, but it would also lower some burden on larger cities to which the villagers, sensing a better opportunity, had migrated.

Cultivating hemp will also benefit farmers of the State of Uttarakhand because they can live in their village and enjoy a far higher standard of living, and a higher savings rate, than they could, while living and working in a city. 

If you would like to share your experience and/or testimony on life in these ghost villages and/or hemp cultivation in Uttarakhand or any other State, please comment in the section below and reach out to us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Pallavi S. Maheshwari
Advocate working towards social upliftment and sustainable development. Here to gather knowledge and write.

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