How Bakarwals kept COVID 19 at bay during seasonal migration in J&K
Srinagar: A strong immune system coupled with physical activities have helped the Bakarwal community to keep COVID 19 at bay during seasonal migration in Jammu and Kashmir. No case of COVID 19 has been detected among goatherders during their seasonal migration. This year, the migration of Bakarwals was delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The administration allowed seasonal migration almost a month late. The majority of Bakarwals choose alternative routes since Kashmir and parts of Jammu were witnessing a spike in Covid-19 cases.
“Bakarwals had to face immense problems during the beginning of migration in May. When they were finally allowed, the families headed straight to the high altitude meadows without spending time in the plains. By the grace of God, not a single case of coronavirus was detected among the community,” said Chaudhary Mohammad Iqbal Phambra, Bakarwal representative of Chadwa village in Udhampur.
Soon after the migration, the sheep husbandry department issued SOPs for the Bakarwals. These included a ban on the movement through red zones and intermingling of transit camps during their stay in the valley meadows.
“Almost 30 percent of the Bakarwals who returned to Jammu have been declared fit and infection-free. Bakarwals took the utmost care of their families during migration. Even on festivals, the majority of Bakarwals didn’t venture out due to the fear of contracting diseases. No family has reported any health issues after returning to Jammu,” he said.
Department of Sheep Husbandry said they had kept medical teams available en route and goatherders were screened at various locations. “Bakarwals were constantly screened and all medical help was provided to those who were unwell,” said Abdul Salaam Mir, Director Sheep Husbandry.
Mir said social distancing helped Bakarwals to keep COVID 19 at bay. “They lived on high altitudes away from residential areas. If someone among the community had contracted an infection, he might have recovered due to strong immunity,” Mir said.