RAJOURI, May 9: Nationwide lockdown was imposed across the country to combat the spread of Covid-19 and break the chain of deadly Coronavirus infection. While it has restricted the movement of people outside their homes and has imposed a total ban on non-essential businesses, one community that was caught in this decision was the Gujjar-Bakerwal nomads residing in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
In Jammu, Gujjar and Bakarwals comprise more than 54% of the tribal population. These nomadic herders along with Gaddis and Sippis move from higher temperature to lower temperatures between the month of March to May every year. They along with their animals climb down to the plains in Jammu during the harsh winter months and then as the temperature starts rising they move back to the higher reaches for greener pastures, a tradition being followed by them for last many years. This seasonal migration also entails movement of the entire clan or settlement in a group. As the lockdown prolonged clouds of uncertainty loomed over their migration.
District administration Rajouri, realized that any delay in the spring migration would adversely affect the health and well being of these nomadic tribes and their animals. The district administration on April 23 gave them permission to use vehicles to transport their families and animals.
The decision required coordination from all the districts through which the movement had to pass, some of which were also having villages/places declared as Red Zones. The concerned Tehsildars has been designated as the nodal officers to issue and renew permits in their favour.
Specials camps are also being held in areas of nomadic settlements and permits are being issued and collected by the Lamberdars and Chowkidars of the area on behalf of the nomads. Adequate precautions are being taken to ensure adoption of social distancing norms and avoid gathering of large crowds to collect permits.
In Rajouri Tehsil more than 1500 permits have been renewed so far and issued in favour of these people and similar process is being followed in other parts of the district as well.
The district administration has also set up medical camps at different locations in Rajouri for regular health checkup of the nomads. A 24×7 dedicated helpline number has also been started to receive any distress calls and every effort is being laid on addressing the issues being faced by the nomadic population during their migration.