Shopian: Over the past 70 years of his seasonal migration to Kashmir, it was for the first time that Muhammad Shafi Chichi belonging to the Gujjar community did not have to embark on an arduous trek through the Pir Panjal mountains to reach his home in Darhal, Rajouri, 127 km from south Kashmir’s Shopian district.
It was a seamless journey of a few hours for Chichi, his family, and their livestock.
There were no night halts, no perilous cliffs to climb on foot, or narrow-mountain passes to walk through along with their livestock for days altogether.
This year the Tribal Affairs Department pressed hundreds of lorries into service across Kashmir to ferry the pastoral communities of Gujjar and Bakerwals to their respective destinations as part of their seasonal winter migration.
These communities migrate to alpines during the summers and return to the plains with the onset of winter along with their livestock.
“It used to take us over 6 to 7 days to reach Rajouri on foot with our livestock. This year it was a comfortable journey,” Chichi said.
He said that the trucks provided by the government did not charge them anything.
“The transportation was free of cost and we were dropped at our winter destinations,” Chichi said.
The gruelling journey through the Pir Panjal mountain range sometimes turns out to be a dicey affair for both the community members as well as their livestock as a mere slip could cost a life.
There is also a constant threat of wild animal attacks.
Muhammad Farooq, a member of the Bakerwal community, said that he had lost more than 30 goats to bear attacks over the past few years. “We hope the government continues the facility in the future,” he said. Secretary of the Tribal Affairs Department, Shahid Iqbal Choudhary told Greater Kashmir that the migratory tribal population remained out of development and welfare schemes in absence of data.
“After the 1st Survey of Transhumance in 2021 a number of specific welfare measures were introduced. Transportation support for migratory tribal population is one of the new policy measures for this deprived section of population. More than 300 trucks deployed since 25 September 25, 2022, provided transport to 16,000 odd families carrying household goods and 2,36,000 livestock. This arrangement through JKRTC has been approved as an annual policy,” he said.
ARTO Shopian-Pulwama Moazam Ali told Greater Kashmir that 168 families along with 6638 livestock were ferried to their winter destinations from the twin south Kashmir districts of Shopian and Pulwama via the Mughal Road and Jammu- Srinagar National Highway. “The initiative has been taken by the Tribal Affairs Department and we are facilitating the journey,” he said.