Skip to main content

Rights of pastoralists amidst challenges for rearing sheep and generational shifts

Zonal level convention on challenges faced by pastoral communities in Eastern India: A note on the two day meet in Ranchi:
Two-day zonal convention on “Rights of Pastoral Community” under the theme “Sheepherders as Climate Justice Activists!” concluded at the Press Club in Ranchi. SAMVAD, a grassroots civil society organization and ActionAid Association organized the meeting to highlight the unique challenges pastoral communities face in Eastern India.
Esteemed speakers, including members of pastoral communities, government officials and subject experts, convened to discuss and debate the invaluable experiences and multifaceted challenges pastoralists face. These discussions aimed to chart a path towards solutions tailored to the unique needs of these communities.
Shankar Bhagat, a pastoralist from Raniganj, West Bengal, highlighted his challenges in sheep rearing and the generational shift in preferences, as the youth are less inclined to engage in pastoralism. Abhimanyu Bhagat from the same region emphasized the shortage and inadequacy of government incentives and how economic hardship forced some pastoralists to abandon their traditional work. Sabar M Debasi, a pastoralist from Rajasthan, also shared his challenging first-hand experiences as a sheepherder.
Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director of ActionAid Association, shared alarming statistics concerning grazing lands. “Over the last 15 years, grazing lands have been diminished by 31 per cent,” he disclosed. Climate change is a driving force behind these changes, creating disparities for livestock and affecting market conditions. Sandeep highlighted the challenging reality that pastoral communities face as climate justice advocates and the need for collaborative efforts to address this. He reiterated the aspiration to extend the reach of this initiative to the village level across states, as well as the need to involve youth in the process.
Ghanshyam, Director of SAMVAD, Jharkhand, brought attention to the community-oriented features of pastoralism. He asserted that “pasture is not a caste; it is a community with collective feelings and living patterns. These communities operated based on scientific principles that deserve understanding, recognition and documentation.” Ghanshyam’s words remind us of the rich cultural fabric that pastoralists contribute to society.
Sudhir Pal, an activist specializing in animal husbandry, took the stage to emphasize the significant challenge of pastoralists’ invisibility within policy-making circles. His words drew attention to the unfortunate consequences of this neglect: the lack of policy interventions that could uplift and support pastoral communities. His statement resonated as a stark reminder that pastoralists often find themselves overlooked in policy discussion and formulation. Sudhir’s assertion serves as a call to action for policymakers, urging them to acknowledge the vital role of pastoralists and the urgent need for targeted interventions to empower and uplift these communities.
Ms C. Thakur, Research Scholar, shared key findings from her study on pastoral communities, poised to shape the discourse around the communities’ challenges and rights. Her dedication to capturing the essence of pastoralism contributes significantly to fostering awareness and informed dialogue on these vital topics.
Debabrat Patra, Zonal Director, East Zone, ActionAid Association, underscored the significance of pastoral communities’ contributions to the ecosystem. He shed light on how pastoral communities enhance soil productivity through their livestock’s manure, emphasizing pastoralists' vital role in maintaining the genetic diversity of approximately 50 million livestock under their care. Debabrat remarked that by safeguarding pastoral communities and recognizing their essential contributions, we are equipping ourselves to combat climate change more effectively.
Saurabh Kumar, Regional Manager of ActionAid Association, leading work in Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, emphasized the pressing need to balance environmental conservation efforts with the space required for pastoralists’ livelihoods. In his poignant words, “We can make an elephant corridor – a passage marked by the government to allow the passage of elephants, but we must also ensure adequate space for livestock and the people caring for them.”
India is home to a thriving community of pastoralists whose lifestyles represent one of the oldest and most sustainable systems. These herders practice mobility, moving their livestock from one climatic region to another every year in search of adequate food, suitable pastures and grasslands. Livestock rearing yields essential resources such as milk, meat, leather and wool, with the latter often being exported. Remarkably, women pastoralists play a pivotal role in collecting sheep’s wool for producing warm clothing and blankets. Additionally, pastoralists contribute significantly to conserving biodiversity and maintaining domestic animal diversity.
In the eastern Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, more than 2.5 million people from diverse communities rely on sheep rearing to sustain their livelihoods. These nomadic pastoralists traverse with their animals, encountering challenges such as limited resources, shifting climatic conditions, and restrictions on entering forest and grazing lands. Furthermore, pastoral communities are not uniform and experience a myriad of identifications in the state as they are not officially recognized as “pastoralists” by the government. In some states, they are recognized as scheduled castes, while in others, they are deemed as other backward classes. They are marginalized communities with difficulty accessing basic amenities such as drinking water, shelter, medicine, education and health services. As nomadic, they also face problems accessing social security and other entitlement services. Furthermore, pastoralists do not receive grazing rights under the Forest Rights Act, and government veterinary services often do not reach migratory communities.
It was in recognition of the diversity within pastoral communities and the pressing need to make them the true custodians of ecological justice that SAMVAD and ActionAid Association hosted the Zonal Level Convention.



Why's Govt of India reluctant to consider battery storage system for renewal energy?

By Shankar Sharma*  If having so many small size battery energy storage system (BESS) at different locations of the grid, as in the report from Australia (a portfolio of 27 small battery storage projects across three Australian states that will total arounds 270 MWh), is considered to be techno-economically attractive in a commercially driven market such as Australia, the question that becomes a lot more relevance to Indian scenario is: why are our planners not in favour of installing such small size BESS at most of the distribution sub-stations not only to accelerate the addition of RE power capacities, but also to minimise the need for large size solar/ wind power parks, dedicated transmission lines and pumped storage plants; which will also minimise the associated technical losses.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

'Failure of governance': India, China account for 54% pollution-relates deaths globally

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram*   A recent report jointly prepared by UNICEF and the independent research organization Health Effects Institute has been released, and the statistics within it are alarming. It states that in 2021, air pollution caused the deaths of 2.1 million Indians, including 169,000 children who hadn't yet fully experienced life. These figures are indeed distressing and raise questions about why there hasn't been more serious effort in this direction, putting policymakers to shame. 

New MVA-INDIA MPs asked to raise Maharashtra milk farmers' demand

By Our Representative  All-India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) national president Dr Ashok Dhawale and AIKS Maharashtra general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale have asked three newly-elected MPs of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA-INDIA) from the milk belt of Maharashtra Dr Amol Kolhe (NCP),  Bhausaheb Wakchaure (SS), and Nilesh Lanke (NCP), to take up the cause of milk farmers of Maharashtra in Parliament.  After congratulating them on their resounding victory over their BJP-NDA rivals, the AIKS leaders apprised them of the milk farmers struggle which is intensifying in the state under the leadership of the AIKS and the Milk Farmers Joint Struggle Committee, and requested them to support it. All three MPs agreed not only to support, but also to take the initiative in this struggle, an official AIKS communique claimed. Farmers in Maharashtra are currently getting as low as Rs 24-27 per litre for cow milk, which is being sold in the market for Rs 56-60 per litre, the AIKS leaders noted. The low price to farmer

Report suggests Indian democracy 'hasn't achieved' equitable economic decentralization

By Vikas Parsaram Meshram  The news that the current economic inequality in the country is worse than during British rule is unsettling. This suggests the harsh reality that our democracy has not achieved equitable economic decentralization. A recent report by Thomas Piketty and three other economists reveals shocking findings: in 2023-24, the top 1% of the wealthiest people in India hold 40% of the nation's wealth, with a 22.6% share in income. 

Women's emancipated under Mao: Girl completed primary school, began working in farm collective

By Harsh Thakor*  The book “New Women in New China”, a collection of articles projecting dramatic transformation -- political and economic -- in the status of Chinese women after liberation, originally published in 1972, and reprinted in 2023 by the Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, encompasses the period between 1949 and 1972, seeking to give justice to the subject of women’s emancipation in China after the 1949 revolution.