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Pastoralists struggle for regaining rights over conserving orans

Pastoralism is a way of life for people living in Loj-nathusar village. Located at a distance of 50 kms from Alwar town in Rajasthan this small village comprising of 30 households is a part of the core area of Sariska Tiger Reserve. The village is on the fringe of Dev Narain Oran, which stretches to an area of 150 hectares and is the source of survival for the people as well as the livestock.

Majority of the households in the village belong to Gujjar community, who are basically pastoralists. The number of livestock spread over this area is quite huge – with each household owning goats, cows and buffaloes and some also owning camels. One can find around 1000 goats, 400-500 buffaloes, 200 cows and 50 camels in this area. From ages, these communities have been depending on Orans, a source of food, fodder and fuel.

With the State taking over the control over these Orans, the communities lost control over these orans. The neglect of orans have had great impacts on the lives and livelihoods of people. Women had to travel longer distances in search of water, fuel and fodder. Loss of rich biodiversity meant that people had less access to food (ber, kair, sanwa, honey etc) and medicinal sources. All this meant that the lives of the pastoralists became harder.

With the support of KRAPAVIS, an NGO in the area, the Gujjar communities have organised themselves and are working together in conserving the Orans. On the other hand, KRAPAVIS has been raising voice on their behalf in the government circles to bring about a change in the policy.

Orans, even to this day, support the lives of these Gujjars for around 8 months period when they have sufficient fodder for the livestock. During those months, the village produces around 18-20 quintals of milk a day which is sold in the nearby market. But during the dry months i.e., April-July, pastoralists can no longer depend on orans for fodder and water. The temperatures rise very high and the forests are dry. People migrate to the nearby villages along with their livestock. They tie up with the local farmers in the area they visit, help them get dung/manure from their livestock and in return get some fodder for the livestock.

The inhabitants of Loj-nathusar village continue to make a decent living depending on the orans which they revere. They recognize its importance and are united in its conservation. But the greatest challenge is to protect the orans from outsiders who come and cut the trees. Local communities feel that they have no control on outsiders who lop the trees with the connivance of local officials. One person from this village represents the local panchayat but one has not been successful in influencing the local panchayat on this issue.

The struggle continues, but with support of agencies like KRAPAVIS, the communities are hopeful and confident that they will be able to succeed. The NGO’s effort which has resulted in inclusion of communities in oran management in the State Policy Document is just one example and a hope for the future.

T M Radha, leisaindia@yahoo.co.in
Aman Singh, krapavis_oran@rediffmail.com