1st April, 2011
UMERKOT, March 31: Mass migration of Tharis, particularly from sandy areas, will miss the census as they were moving towards greener pastures for their fodder-and-water-starved livestock. The scenario had erupted because of the shortage of water and fodder in the absence of industries and work opportunities.
The affected areas include Umerkot, Tharparkar, Khipro, Badin and Khairpur. Influential people are demanding inclusion of migrant Tharis in national census which was taking place after a gap of around 13 years. People missing the counting will be from some union council of Umerkot taluka, all four talukas of Tharparkar district, two union councils of Khipro taluka, few areas of Badin, and Nara taluka of Khairpur district. They had already embarked upon the journey to areas where food, fodder, water and causal labouring like harvesting were in abundance.
Some 1.5 million people are tied to agro-pastoral i.e., they raise livestock and harvest millets for livelihood.
Thar receives scanty or erratic annual rainfall and people migrate in hordes during droughts. Yet, the population of livestock heads was more than other districts.
Abdul Haleem Rahimoo from Sarangyar and his three brothers were on way to Saeedabad along with their livestock. He said that the underground water in their village had become saline, their harvested rainwater had finished and wild fodder damaged by late rains last year thus leaving them with no option but to migrate as they can`t afford losing their livestock to thirst and hunger.
This was not an isolated scene as scores of people were seen travelling in the company of luggage-laden camels and donkeys and flocks of cows, goats and sheep in hot weather or at night unmindful of snakes and other reptiles.
EDO Agriculture Ghulam Haider Jarwar said that he and DCO Umerkot Ghulam Laghari had submitted a proposal to the Sindh government over ways and means to cope with fodder and water shortage and death of livestock but to no avail.
Chairman, Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party, Dr Qadir Magsi said Tharis were sure to miss their funds allocation due to mass migration. “A fortnight back I visited Thar and found 45 per cent of houses deserted.”
Delay in appointing the Census Commissioner proves the government`s non- seriousness about the census, he said and suggested of hiring volunteers in desert areas. A special strategy ought to be formulated for registration of absent Tharis who had either gone for casual labour or were working in bungalows and factories, he suggested.
General Secretary of Save Sindh Movement Mir Amanullah Talpur said that the migration of Tharis was an important issue and the government should evolve a special strategy wherein they should be enlisted.
He replied that migration could only be stopped if the government introduced arid farming and welfare projects in times of droughts or during scarcity of a commodity.
An activist Bharumal Amrani likened the misery of desert people to words of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai which translates: “The nomadic have migrated leading their herds away and I haven`t seen them since ages.”
He questioned the performance of the Livestock Advisory Board formed last year and suggested plantation of trees like kandi (prosopis), khabar (salvadora), kirir (capparis) and konbhat for catering to fodder needs.
Scarcity of fodder in Umerkot and Tharparkar began earlier as unexpected rainfall in December last damaged the standing, harvested and stocked crops, besides damaging grass in meadows and pastures.
He demanded livestock insurance and production of artificial fodder and also appealed for establishing fodder factories.
Tharis use dry pods of cluster bean, dry leaves of kidney bean and stalks of millet as fodder and keep them in piles in open spaces but the rain damaged it.
A writer Arbab Nek Muhammad said that previously Sazda worked for the development of trees, grass and crops but could not come up to the mark hence was abandoned. He criticised the Umerkot and Mithi arid zone research institutes for failing to introduce trees, grass and bushes capable of surviving at low water table or in drought situation.
Veterinarian Jhamandas said that the livestock were under the threat of metabolic, bacterial and viral diseases. Animals were suffering from constipation, tympani, calcium and mineral deficiency with mostly showing anaemic conditions due to fodder shortage and consumption of saline water in hunger. Animals also lick sand which worsens their afflictions. The government should provide concentrate foods â€“ a mixture of all ingredients.
He said farmers keep higher number of livestock rather less but of good quality.An official of the Arid Zone Research Institute Umerkot avoided commenting on the issue because of restrictions. However, it was learnt that some shrubs, bushes and trees had been introduced which would be a source of fodder. The government was ready to providing species to Tharis but they were not ready to plant it.