Additional Director,Animal Husbandry, North Sikkim regarding Yak deaths in Muguthang Valley and adjoining area of North Sikkim

01/05/2019 - 31/07/2019

Press release issued by the Additional Director (North) A.H.L.F&V.S Department, North District, Mangan, Dr. Karma T. Bhutia, regarding Yak deaths in Muguthang Valley and adjoining area of North Sikkim informs that on receipt of the first hand information from the Local Pipons and Herder’s representative, the Animal husbandry department in co-ordination with the L.R & D.M Department, North district and I.T.B.P, immediately procured and arranged a buffer stock of dry fodder, wheat flour, mustard oil cake and local concentrate feed for distribution to the Yak herders of the entire region to tide over the imminent feed and fodder crisis. While the relief package was handed over to the herders (Beneficiary list enclosed) in time (1st week of March 2019), barring Lachung area, the relief items could not be reached to the destination as the area remained cut off for over the last four months and still barely accessible even today. However, we remain content of the fact that the pre-emptive measures which we were able to deliver to the Yak farmers of Lachung village at the nick of time, greatly helped in curtailing the losses of Yak lives to quite an extent.

The release further informs that an emergent meeting was convened in the chamber of the D.C (North), with the officials of the concerned line departments on 11.5.2019 for working out a task force to tackle the concurrent situation in hand. Subsequently, a departmental team of 3 Veterinary Officers & Para-vets from the District accompanied by relief and damage assessment team deputed from the B.A.C & S.D.M Office, Chungthang were dispatched to the area on 12.5.2019. The team could only gain access up to Cho-lhamu and Gurudongmar area and the action taken up along with the preliminary report is recorded hereunder.
1. As per instructions of the D.C, North, the AHLF&VS department made arrangements for all requisite logistic support in terms of feed supplements and medicines.
2. The surviving animals of the area were provided with health tonics and requisite treatments, namely- anti-stress medication, ecto & endo parasiticides along with some package of concentrate feed and wheat flour.
3. Instructions and modalities for appropriate disposal of carcass.
4. Recording of the name & particulars of the households affected with the no. of Yak deaths against each household by the team from B.A.C and LR&D.M department. A copy of the preliminary report thereof is attached herewith for ready reference and the final report will be furnished by the team after visiting Muguthang valley.
5. On 13.5.2019, a team headed by Secretary AHLF&VS, Special Secretary LR&DM and Additional Director, North (AHLF&VS) briefed the Chief Secretary, Government of Sikkim at the Tashiling Secretariat, Gangtok regarding the calamity wherein a sum of Rs. 50.00 Lacs only was approved for release of ex-gratia in the first instance to the LR&DM Office, North.
6. A follow-up meeting was also conducted at Chungthang on 13.5.2019 which was presided over by S.D.M, Chungthang Sub-division and participated by V.O (SDVH, Chungthang), B.D.O (Chungthang) and members of the affected Yak herding families and their representatives. In the meeting, it was agreed and decided that a second batch of team numbering about 30 persons from the Animal husbandry and LR&DM department (North District) would be proceeding to Muguthang valley on the 18th of May. The primary objective of the team would be to oversee and undertake proper disposal of the carcass and extend necessary Animal health care with adequate back-up support of medicine and feed supplements for which the C.O I.T.B.P has assured to extend all help and logistic support. The team is expected to be back by the 22nd of May 2019 with the final report.
7. Meanwhile, the LR&DM Department, North District is presently consolidating and finalizing the list of affected households for expediting release of the ex-gratia payment as permissible under the latest S.D.R.F/N.D.R.F guidelines, notified by the Government of India.

As may be seen from the above report, the incidence of snowfall ranging from mild to heavy and intermittent to continuous is a phenomenon left best at the mercy of Mother Nature in this era of global warming and climate change. Yak and Tibetan sheep, is globally categorized in the priority list of endangered and threatened species of animals with regard to its role in the conservation of the fragile ecosystem, maintaining the bio-diversity and also as the only source of livelihood to the highlanders. It is also a fact that despite the animal’s God gifted ability to endure and thrive under stressful environmental conditions, the animal remains vulnerable to the unpredictable fury of nature. In addition, the very presence of the herders in the Country’s ever hostile border areas (Himalayas), greatly help the defense personnel stationed in the Border States like Sikkim to obtain vital information related to the safety and security of the Countrymen. Therefore, it is but, essential and imperative that concerted efforts and perspective plan be envisaged by the Government for saving the life of this precious animal, augment the livelihood of the highlanders and motivate them to stay put with their herds in the region rather than seeking easier and alternative means of livelihood in urban areas.

With the justifications furnished as above, Dr. Bhutia would like to put forth the following suggestions/proposal, as a tentative and long-term solution to the concerned higher authorities for obtaining onward approval of the Government.

1. Create/Establish a wing for Highland Livestock Development- This will enable the Government to address burning issues pertaining to highland livestock which are most vulnerable to nature and nearing extinction today.
2. Build/Construct all weather roads in the Yak herding areas – This will render the area accessible to the tourists visiting the zone and thereby establish some mode of contact with the outside world as well as a fair bit of leisurely time and income to the herders. Moreover, it will also facilitate convenient and timely delivery of logistic support and relief items.
3. Package of Feed, Fodder & Medical Aid Assistance – Snowfall being a routine phenomenon in the region, it is proposed that these herders be provided with the above special package of assistance by the 2nd week of November of every calendar year. This will see them tide over the winter feed and fodder crisis and aid them to save the losses of Yak lives and sustain their herd.
4. Organize Highlander’s Annual Yak Festival – the proposed festival envisages, showcasing Yak racing and yak riding through local competition events and exemplary farmers would be felicitated with Certificates and Cash awards from the Head of the State/Government. This would inevitably go a long way in raising the morale of the herders and generating renewed zeal and enthusiasm amongst their new generation youths.
5. Organize Exposure & Pilgrimage Tour for Yak herding families – Yak herders constantly engage in nature worship and hold religion in its pristine form to ensure the household prosperity and safety of their animals in such a remote location where, availing basic medical aid is a distant reality. Organization of such trips within and outside the Country from time to time will also embark upon establishing a sustainable goodwill relation with the Government functionaries working in close association with the herders.
6. Allotment of Mobile Ambulance Vehicle – A mobile vehicle, preferably, a Bolero Camper if available at the disposal of the Sub-divisional Officer will greatly help the team in carrying out relief and rescue operations immediately. It will also enable the team to frequently make field visits and undertake timely pre-emptive measures.

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