Pastoralism is a form of animal husbandry which involves letting out animals (livestock) to pastures for grazing. This usually is nomadic or transhumant in nature but today, it is also being more commercially designed and carried out in big pastures called ranches. This article speaks about the Rajasthani pastoralists and their lives.
In Rajasthan, we can see pastoralists herding camels, sheep, and goats. There are a few herding communities in the regions of Rajasthan such as the Raikas. Pastoralists in Rajasthan mainly herd camels due to the conditions of the region- scarcity of water, highly arid and lack of infrastructure in rural regions. The camel herders feel it is their responsibility and duty, assigned to them by the gods, to take care of camels and keep them happy. They have a lot of knowledge with respect to their camels. They breed and care fortheir camels with excellency. They are also able to communicate with their herds easily and effectively.
So, what does a camel herder/pastoralist of Rajasthan do in a day? Let’s go through a regular herder’s day and then look at some of the challenges they face in these regions.
The life of these pastoralists is extremely tough. The herd sizes between herders may differ from 20-30 per herder and 100-120 per herder. In some cases, it may be even more. Even in the scorching heat of the region, they leave early in the morning and are usually out the whole day, only returning late in the evening. They mustalso make their provisions of drink and food for the whole day and carry them along with themselves. The herders sell some young male camels along with camel products to earn income. They walk through forests and desert lands to get to a grazing field. In the afternoons, they may rest their herds under shades of canopying trees. Their access to grazing lands has decreased significantly over time. Earlier, they used to be welcome to cross lands owned by farmers to reach their grazing lands. Sometimes, the farmers used to allow the camels to graze on empty patches of their lands and provide the herd with water in return for manure. Now, the farmers are reluctant to let these herds onto their land as they are scared that they will destroy the crops. Hence, they have lost many grazing lands since their usual migratory routes have been cut off. The farmers have switched to fertilizers and hence don’t require the manure anymore. This has put the pastoralists in a grave situation as the quality and quantity of pasture lands have severely been affected. Vague and unhelpful government policies have also restricted movement of the herds and have also eliminated some of these pastoralists’ income sources. After the day’s grazing is over, they return home to their villages late in the evening.
But in today’s India, these pastoralists are facing huge issues. They are being given problem upon problem. Government restrictions and disassociation with farmers have limited their access to pastures. Meaningless laws meant to help them have caused more harm than help. Scarcity of water and pressure on pasture lands have led to a huge decrease in number of camels. In this situation, they are completely helpless and have been forgotten about entirely by everybody. What are they supposed to do?