The nomadic Gujjar and Bakarwal communities of Jammu and Kashmir have been given smart cards and free transportation to help with their biannual migration.
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Gujjar-Bakarwal Community Information:
- The nomadic pastoralists of Jammu and Kashmir, also known as the Gujjar-Bakarwal community, are a Himalayan transhumance community.
- Gujjars and Bakarwals are the third largest ethnic group in J&K, accounting for more than 9% of the union territory’s total population.
- Approximately 99.3 percent of Gujjar and Bakarwals in J&K practise Islam, and they were designated as a Scheduled Tribe in 1991.
- Gujjars – o The Gujjars are also known as Goajar, Gujar, and Gurjara.
- They have their own dialect, GOJRI, which is a branch of Indo-Aryan dialect, as well as their own customs, craftsmanship, and specialty.
- Bakarwals – o The term “Bakarwals” is derived from the combination of two terms “Bakri” means goat/ sheep and “wal” means “one who cares” of essentially the name “Bakarwal” implies high altitude goats and sheep herders.
- Bakarwals are primarily pastoral nomads who spend their summers raising goats and sheep at high altitudes in the Great Himalayas and their winters in the plains and foothills of the Shivaliks.
- They migrate with their flock biannually between the pastures of Kashmir and Ladakh in the summer and the plains of Jammu in the winter.
- Across their migratory routes, their daily activities benefit the environment by –
- conserving local soil and water,
- seasonally maintaining grasslands,
- regulating the frequency of forest fires by limiting excessive growth, and
- keeping invasive plant species in check by weeding them out.
The community’s difficulties
- The Gujjar-Bakarwal Tribe of J&K is one of the most backward of all J&K tribes.
- Most habitation areas of the Gujjar Bakarwal tribe in Jammu and Kashmir lack facilities such as o Road communication, electricity, water supply schemes, medical facilities, and educational facilities, putting the Gujjar Bakarwal tribe in a lot of hardships and troubles.
- For the benefit of the Gujjar and Bakarwal communities, the government has implemented a number of employment schemes in Jammu and Ladakh union territory, including the following:
- Jawahar Rojgar Yojana o Indira Awas Yojana o Self-Employment for Educated Unemployed Youth o Lift Irrigation Execution Programs
Government Community Initiatives:
- For centuries, Jammu and Kashmir’s nomadic community, known as Gujjars and Bakerwals, have undertaken arduous journeys on foot as part of their seasonal migration to find better pastures for their livestock.
- They frequently lose cattle and, on occasion, family members to accidents and hardships along the way.
- However, this year, the UT administration has offered technological solutions and transport services to help them cover long distances in less time.
Concerning the Government’s Initiative:
- The Tribal Affairs Department of J&K surveyed 98,000 Gujar-Bakarwal families to map their transit routes and locations.
- Officials delineated pastures and grazing land in each district using remote sensing technology and a geographic information system, and this was followed by mapping of routes and migration patterns to understand when Bakerwals and their livestock use the highways.
- The Tribal Affairs Department also worked with the Forest Department and the Census Operations Department to provide tribal families with smart cards.
- Use of Smart Cards – o Smart cards will replace the current requirement for multiple permissions and provide a unified central database to all organisations and agencies for smooth and hassle-free family movement during the biannual vertical migration.
- The smart card, which is embedded with a chip, contains demographic information, transit routes, originating location, destination, and other vital statistics.
- Over the next three months, a pilot project will serve 10,000 families.