24 Dec : The new generation of Van Gujjar’s from the foothills of Shivalik, Uttarakhand region, it seems, are drifting towards modernity, and wants to break free from old family occupation of rearing and milking cattle.
Van Gujjar’s who general stay on the fringes of the Rajaji National Park in the Garhwal area, are known shepherds.
But the generation next, is more keen to do odd jobs for living rather than goad their livestock, and lead a semi-pastoral life.
Many teenagers that stay in the Harawala area of the National Park, close to Dehradun-Rishkesh highway have already taken up petty jobs with small shops that have mushroomed in the vicinity of the region. And going by the trend, more are expected to follow.
But for some, family livelihood stands between their aspiration and odd jobs that may not big money—its Rs 3000 to Rs 4000 per month, or even less, but its quite alluring.
Talking to this writer, a teenage Gujjar, a drop-out from local Government school in the area, said he would like to work and earn his living but
… can’t do. “If I earn, I can buy lots of things for myself. Since I am not earning, I have to depend on my parents for petty things when ever I need,” said the teenage boy who generally spends his day herding the family cattle.
What’s the reason for generation next to opt for other jobs, when dairy farming can be good money making business. These days, milk and its product are in great demand? Firstly, Gujjar’s depend on forest for fodder that is fast shrinking due to environment. The breed of buffalo are not of high quality and yield of milk per cattle is quite low. Thus money earned from the business is inadequate to support big family. Van Gujjar’s still have joint-family system.
In the recent-past, a large number of concrete structure have come up in the surroundings of the National Park, and the picture of modern society, it seems, must be quite attractive for the new generation who live in thatched roofs in the jungle. Change in the environment, perhaps could be another reason for making an impact on the simple life-style of the Van Gujjar
’s who are Muslims by religion, and have been living a semi-pastoral life for centuries.
Elderly persons in the family, however, wants their kids to support them in rearing the cattle.
“If we send our children to work or school, then who will take care of the livestock,” was the reason an elderly women gave for not sending the kids to school. Or work.
But how long can the parents restrain their children!