COVID19 lockdown hits J&K pastoralists

Seeking immediate permission to move towards Kashmir, pastoralists in Jammu and Kashmir have claimed the lockdown was putting their livestock at risk.

The COVID19 lockdown has delayed the seasonal migration of the pastoralists in Jammu and Kashmir.

Expressing apprehensions, shepherds and herdsmen from Gujjar and Bakarwal community said if they were not allowed to migrate to the meadows of Kashmir they would not be able to find fodder, hay and green grass, for their animals.

“The temperature here has gone up. The green grass has already dried out. In a couple of days we won’t be able to have any fodder for our livestock,” Muhammad Miser told Greater Kashmir over phone from Kalakote in Rajouri.

He said there were thousands of sheep and goats with the nomadic families in Rajouri.

“Every year by this time, we would have migrated to Kashmir, where the temperatures remain conducive for the animals. Due to the COVID19 lockdown this year, our migration got delayed however,” he said.

“If the authorities won’t allow us immediately to move with our herd to Kashmir, we fear we may lose thousands of animals. If that happens that will be a disaster for the sheep industry of the J&K,” he said.  A group of pastoralists said spending too long time at one spot means stressing local resources, as the animals need food and water.

They said they are facing acute shortage of fodder for animals and further delay in migration to Kashmir has pushed to livestock on the brink of starvation.

As the temperature also rises in Jammu division, the nomads said that sheep and goats cannot bear the heat. The seasonal migrates spend winter months in Jammu to feed animals over pastures and save them from cold in Kashmir.

By March-end, they move for greener pastures and cooler environment of Kashmir as summer approaches the plains.

The nomads also earn by selling animals in Kashmir, especially when the demand of meat goes higher on festivals. Principal Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Navin Kumar Choudhary said the migration has already been started and the department was facilitating the pastoralists.

“Concerned officials have been asked to allow and facilitate their migration. The process is going on and about to complete,” he said.

However, he said some nomadic people were not ready to adhere to certain guidelines in view of COVID19.

“There may be few who complain of getting no permission to move. But they are lying. The seasonal migration has started, allowed and facilitated very much earlier,” he said.