Bakarwals of Kashmir lament government apathy

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Rajouri, Feb 11 (ANI): Living semi-nomadic life and herding sheep and goats, Bakarwals, the nomadic tribe of Jammu and Kashmir, are demanding better facilities for their upliftment.

For centuries, Bakarwals have been leading a tough life in the high-altitude meadows of the Himalayas and the Pir-Panjal ranges.

Every year, they along with their families migrate from the lowland plains in the winter to the upper reaches of the Himalaya during the summer taking their sheep high into the mountains, above the tree-line to graze in the lush meadows.

Keeping in mind their tribal character, the Central Government after decades-long struggle granted the community scheduled tribe status in 1991. The move aimed at prioritizing their socio economic upliftment.

But Bakarwals complain that their living conditions continue to be pitiable. The community's literacy rate continues to be quite low while mortality rates are high due to disease and poverty. They allege government apathy for their condition.

"We cast votes, but nobody thinks of us. We are leading our lives with great difficulty, but nobody pays any heed to our plight," said Jumma Bakarwal, a Bakarwal tribal.

Still living in centuries old traditions of nomadic life, many of them want to come to terms with modernization. They want to shift to a settled life and want the government to help them in this regard.

"The government should provide them with houses. Their children should be educated, so that they could lead their lives in a settled manner. But nothing has been done so far," said Abdul Quesam, a resident.

With a new government in place in the state, the Bakarwals hope that the administration will take note of their plight and take some concrete steps would be taken for their upliftment.

Bakarwals are a vital community in Jammu and Kashmir and along with Gujjars, another nomadic tribe, constitute about 30 per cent of state's population. y Tahir Nadeem Khan (ANI)

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