Gujjars, Bakerwals Flee On Fear Of Avalanches
26 February 2005
Banihal: Fear of avalanches in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir is driving the Gujjar and Bakerwal tribals down hill the tough journey along National Highway-1A notwithstanding. The tribals have lost not only family members but also thousands of cattle in the avalanches. Those who have managed to survive the calamity are fleeing for safety as the civil administration has warned them of more avalanches. 'We have given instructions to the people to evacuate those areas which are avalanche-prone and most of these areas can be clearly identified,' Manzoor Ahmed, a health worker, said. The temporary migration has forced the Gujjars to buy commodities at inflated prices. It is a pity that the community, which once used to supply these commodities - milk, meat and eggs - is now forced to buy them from the market place. Ramzan Khatanna of Kahri, who migrated to Banihal town of Doda district after trekking for more than 10 hours, says: 'There is no source of livelihood for me. I do not know how I would survive in this cold weather.' There is a serious mismatch between demand and supply of goods as 300 trucks are stuck on the highway. Initially, the residents did give shelter to the shelter-less but now even they are worried about their own future as there is shortage of essential commodities. There is no Public Distribution System in place. So shopkeepers decide the commodity prices.