Keeping their centuries old tradition alive and with rise in daily temperature, the bi-annual seasonal migration of Gujjars and Bakerwals from Jammu’s forest plains to Kashmir’s high pastures is in full swing.
Every year, lakhs of people from nomadic tribes, mainly the Gujjars and Bakerwals, migrate to the Valley when temperatures soar in the plains of Jammu in April-May before returning ahead of the onset of winter.
Liyakat Ali, a tribal on seasonal migration to Kashmir said that their family has started to shift towards highland pastures Kashmir which is their centuries old tradition.
He said that they used to face a lot of problems during their journey. The government has now provided them with transport facilities which he described as a positive measure for his community.
“We are thankful to LG Manoj Sinha-led administration for introducing transport services for tribal people which reduced 300 kilometers on-foot journey of four weeks to just 1-2 days”, he said.
The government introduced the transportation service for migratory tribal families, covering the journey on National Highway, Mughal Road and other major roads.
“More than 16,000 migratory tribal families benefitted last year after spending summer months in Kashmir pastures and being brought back in trucks to their destination in various districts of the Jammu division”, an official said.
He said the transportation system put in place by the Tribal Affairs Department has reduced the travel time from 20-30 days on foot to 1-2 days while it has also helped in smooth traffic management.
Speaking to news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), Musheer Ahmed Mirza, Director, Tribal Affairs department said they kept vehicles available for nomadic community but tribal people prefer journey on foot as they have using pastures enroute for fodder of their animals.
He said it is an old traditional and seasonal practice and it takes them around one month to reach their respective places.
“We have been contacting J&K Road Transport Corporation to provide vehicles so as to take them from one place to another whosoever contacts us”, he said.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests for J&K, Mohit Gera told KNO that the forest department is the nodal department under forest right act for tribal communities.
“We have our forest for fodder programme under which fodder production is being increased besides that forest product and some medicinal plants are being gathered by tribal people,” he said.
Last year the government had sanctioned a policy for sustainable collection and utilization of non-timber forest products under which tribal people will get benefit, he said.
He said that the forest department along with other departments are working together for the welfare of tribal communities and their claims are being looked into by the Deputy Commissioner concerned and grass production is being increased in forests and routes used by tribal communities.
“We have been providing grass and seeds for non forest areas as well while units are being established in forests,” he said, adding that land is specially kept for grass where they are getting this grass,” he said—(KNO)