Srinagar: Strong immunity system and staying in isolated areas have helped the Gujjar and Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir to remain unaffected by COVID-19.
Living at a high altitude where the movement of people is very less, the community has not witnessed large scale infections in the first wave.
To protect them from the second wave, Jammu and Kashmir government has made immunization mandatory for the community before the seasonal migration.
Gujjars and Bakarwals of Kashmir are preparing for their six -month-long seasonal migration from Jammu towards high altitude meadows of Kashmir. The migration begins in May and lasts till October when the temperature in Kashmir starts falling.
“Gujjars and Bakarwals are safe from the virus. We live very far from each other. There is no movement of people in our areas. We haven’t witnessed any death due to the coronavirus,” said Chaudhary Mohammad Iqbal Phambra, Bakarwal representative of Chadwa village in Udhampur.
Last year, the Bakarwal community also succeeded in keeping COVID 19 at bay during seasonal migration. No case of COVID-19 was detected among goat herders during their seasonal migration.
Phambra said the government has set up testing centers at various places en route for Gujjars and Bakarwals. “None of the Gujjar or Bakarwals, who traveled towards Kashmir last year, tested positive. We consume everything natural and remain busy with the physical activities,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir administration has issued an advisory for Gujjar and Bakarwals restricting their movement through COVID19 red zones.
The advisory issued by the Department of Sheep Husbandry Kashmir has called upon the nomadic tribes to avoid moving through red zones declared by the J&K government in the wake of coronavirus.
Monitoring health, cleaning of livestock, and use of protective facemasks and social distancing during migration have also been stressed by the administration.
Administrative Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Tribal Affairs Department Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary said the government had directed the district administration to vaccinate Gujjars and Bakarwals before their seasonal migration.
“Lieutenant Governor held a meeting recently and he directed for the vaccination of Gujjars and Bakarwals from Rajouri, Poonch, and Reasi. A testing facility has also been set for them,” he said.
Shahid said that the nomadic community was least affected by the COVID-19 last year. “This year hopefully they will remain safe,” he said.