Kashmir’s welfare scheme for nomadic Gujjars

July 23rd, 2012 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Jammu, July 23 (IANS) The Jammu and Kashmir has formulated a welfare scheme for the nomadic Gujjar community.

Social Welfare Minister Sakina Itoo told IANS: “The scheme will take care of all aspects of life of Gujjars who have really suffered for want of such an initiative.”

The scheme will cover the health of nomads and their cattle, education of their children, small entrepreneurship training and loan facilities, she said.

About 500,000 nomadic Gujjars in the state shift to highland pastures in summer and come down to the plains in winter.

They move in caravans along with their cattle and bare minimum household materials. They cover long distances while moving up and down.

In the process, their cattle and the people fall sick and sometimes die due to lack of health or veterinary care. Their children are not educated.

According to the scheme, the social welfare department will initially keep mobile doctors, veterinary doctors and teachers along with the moving caravan.

The main focus would be train the people among the Gujjars in veterinary science and health and educate people among them to become teachers.

“This way they can have health care and veterinary care on time and their children can get education,” Itoo said.

The scheme also has provision for training in handicraft and to provide the Gujjars easy loans.

The loans can help them in expanding cattle herd or set up mobile handicraft units or other economic activity.

Itoo added that there would be insurance cover for both Gujjars and their cattle for compensation in case of death of either while they are on the move.

Javaid Rahi, secretary of Tribal Foundation, said: “This is going to be a good scheme provided there is strict supervisory control and it is implemented in letter and spirit.”

He added: “Cattle is the mainstay of Gujjars. Whenever they (cattle) get ill or struck by disease, the treatment is based on traditional and superstitious ways.

“Now they can have scientific methods of treatment both for themselves and their cattle.”

Choudhary Liaqat Ali, an elderly nomadic Gujjar in Patnitop area, about 110 km north of Jammu, told IANS: “Such a scheme was needed. But better late than never.”

According to one estimate, only five to seven percent of nomadic Gujjars were barely literate.

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