Exclusion of Nomadic Pastoralists in the Policy Realm: A Case of Dhangar Community in Eastern Part of Satara District, Maharashtra, India

Since generations, the Nomadic Pastoralists have derived their livelihood from the livestock and related activities. Dhangar, a pastoral community from the semi-arid zone, rely on the sheep and goat rearing for their survival. For generations, the community has been marginalised in the social, economic, political and academic sphere as well. Literature available on this community does not capture the issues related to their plights and exclusion in the policy realm. The study was conducted to assess the state response for the livelihood vulnerabilities of the community. It was found that, the community is excluded from the policy level discourses and decisions. Despite the livestock’s significant contribution in generating livelihood opportunities in rural areas, its importance is rarely reflected in the policy level dialogues. The study also put the clear picture that, the policies related to development corporations, Tribes and Forest Acts, veterinary services, education and health have made an exclusion of the community from the development process. Due to the lack of effective and strong policy provisions in the changing scenario, the community is not able to cope with the existing marginalization. Therefore, this paper attempts to provide empirical evidences on issues related to the marginalization and exclusion of Dhangar in the policy realm. Formulation of effective and inclusive policies can be an effective way to deal the exclusion of this community.
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Literature on pastoralists shows that their issues are rarely discussed and debated in the social, economic and policy spheres. ‘Six centuries ago, Iban Khaldun, in perhaps the first Scholarly writing of Nomad, described the nomads as superior to all, yet the source of ruin. Today there is vast literature available primarily in history, anthropology, geography and development studies, which describe the diverse pastoral and nomadic peoples of the world. Yet this body of writing tends to be either adulatory or critical, either explaining and justifying the institutions and practices of pastoral life or impatiently depicting them as an environmentally destructive and politically anarchic (Galaty and Johnson, 1990)’. It shows that, these communities are historically neglected and portrayed in literature with biases like pastoralists are environmentally destructive and responsible for the environmental degradation. It shows that, real issues of the nomadic communities are not studied objectively by the academia.
Nomadic Pastoralism
Nomadism is one of the important strategies followed by the pastoralists to fulfil their livelihood needs and cope with the scarcity of the grazing and water resources (Dadas, 2011). ‘Geographically, nomadic pastoralism is widespread in the arid regions of Western India, Deccan Plateau and in mountainous regions of India (Sharma, Rollefson and Morton, 2003).’ The pastoral nomads follow nomadism because of scarcity of fodder and water for the flocks during the winter and summer (Shashi, 1978).
As far as the data on pastoralists in India is concerned, there are more than 200 tribes comprising six percent of the country’s population is engaged in the pastoralism (Sharma, Rollefson and Morton, 2003). ‘India is having large number of pastoral groups, include Golla and Kuruma of Andhra Pradesh, Rabari and Bharwad from Gujarat, Kuruba and Dhangar from Karnataka, Gujjars from Rajasthan, Gaddi, Gujjar and Bakkarwals of Himalayas (Bhasin, 2011. p.49).’ And Dhangar of the Maharashtra are mainly involved in sheep and goat rearing.
Dhangar Community
‘The word Dhangar means ‘Dhang, the Sanskrit word’, literal meaning of this word is mountain and gar means holding. It means that the people residing in the mountain areas.’ (Rao and Casimir (ed), 2003). The community is involved in sheep and goat rearing for their livelihood. The community belongs to the Nomadic Tribes (NT) category, with an estimated population of two million in the state of Maharashtra (Malhotra and Gagil, 1981).
The livelihood of the Dhangars depends on the livestock’s like sheep and goats. Partially, dry land agriculture also contributes in the survival of the community. The survival of sheep and goats depend on the grazing and water resources. Environmental conditions have limited the growth of agriculture and pastoralism in the area. The study area belongs to the rain shadow and cause scarcity of grazing resources which has compelled the community to follow nomadism. These conditions are posing livelihood vulnerabilities in the lives of the community (Dadas, D. 2011). The nomadic lifestyle has not only posed survival challenges for the Dhangars but also limited the access of policy provisions. Therefore, they remain excluded in the realm of education, health and livelihood policies.
As a welfare state, the government has the responsibility for the welfare of the marginalised groups therefore it makes welfare provisions for the improvement of the quality life of disadvantaged sections like Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes, Other Backward Classes and Nomadic Tribes. Dhangars belong to a nomadic tribe and depend on livestock for their livelihood. Since independence, the government has made fewer efforts to solve their existing problems and improve their lifestyle. However, these provisions have not been effectively reflected in the development of the community. In this context, it is important to understand the implications of policies on the welfare of Dhangars.
Policy Exclusion
The concept of social exclusion has been extensively applied to India (Appasamy et.al., 1996). In India, it is not new phenomena, but recently it has been widely discussed in the academia. Since generations, the Indian society has been divided into various groups like caste, class, tribe, gender, religion and region etc. Therefore, exclusion has existed in each and every societal sphere. The study of “social exclusion” of excluded groups (due to their identity associated with social origin like caste, ethnicity, religion, colour, indigenous region, nationality, gender and other), is neglected in the mainstream discourse. Unfair inclusion results in low access to income earning assets, employment, education, health, food and housing. (Thorat and Sabharwal, 2010). In simple words, ‘social exclusion refers to the process and outcome of keeping a social group outside the power centres and resources (Louis, ‘nd’). Mayes, (2001) argues that social exclusion is not just a description of the adverse consequences of disadvantages but of the process by which people becomes distanced from the benefits of participating in a modern society.’
The obvious exclusions are those of caste and community, along with gender (Xaxa and Nathan, 2012). Pastoralists are not an exception to this. Because of continuous movement, they are more prone to exclusion. Exclusions are of two forms. One is exclusion from access to or denial of rights to various services such as to health, education, housing and water (ibid). The other form of exclusion is that of deprivation of the right to express one’s views and voice in terms made famous by Hirschman (1970). Those forms have existed together. The present paper focuses on the first form of exclusion i.e. access to services for the nomadic pastoralists called Dhangars. Such services include access to health, education, veterinary medicines, tribes and forest rights act and livelihood schemes provided by the Development Corporations.
Policy exclusion is defined as a process through which individuals, groups or communities are wholly or partially excluded from welfare measures and devel-opmental programs (IILS, 1994; quoted in Sonowal, 2008). In India, exclusion revolves around the societal interrelations and institutions that exclude, discriminate, isolate, and deprive some groups on the basis of group’s identities like caste and ethnicity (Thorat and Louis, 2003). As far as policy exclusion in tribal context is concerned, the tribes have been facing problems from both inclusion into and exclusion from the dominant development paradigm in the country (Sonowal, 2008).’
Field realities show that the majority of population from such groups live under minimum life standard and extreme poverty. Since the pastoralists are not static, it is difficult to analyse the exclusion of such groups in the policy realm. Empirical evidences show that issues of the Dhangars are neglected in the policy dialogues. Though there have been attempts to formulate policies for the marginalised communities such as tribes and other nomadic groups; findings show that there is the exclusion of the nomadic groups from the important areas like livelihood, health, education etc. It has led them to a situation where they find it difficult to cope with their livelihood vulnerabilities.
Study Area
Some nomadic populations occupy remote regions which are environmentally marginal and distant from centres of civilisation and power (Sharma, 2011). The study area belongs to the Satara District of Maharashtra. According to the rainfall pattern, the district can be divided into two parts-- east and west. Eastern Satara (study location) experiences less rainfall and therefore drought prone whereas western Satara experiences heavy rainfall. The eastern part of Satara is also dominated by barren and stony land. The present study was conducted in the four villages of Maan and Phaltan blocks. Though western Maharashtra is considered as a developed region of Maharashtra; the eastern territory of Satara district is underdeveloped due to the hilly area and drought prone conditions.
Figure 1: Satara District Map

Source: www.mapasofindia.com
The study was conducted with mixed i.e. quantitative and qualitative method approach. The eastern part of Satara district was selected purposively because; the Dhangars follow nomadism to the various traditional migratory routes like Konkan, Western Satara and Marathwada region. Two-stage sampling methods were used. At the first stage, villages were selected purposively where there was a substantial Dhangar population. Thereafter, household survey was carried out in four selected villages through the convenient sampling method. Out of the selected villages, one village migrating to Konkan region was selected from the Phaltan block and the remaining three villages. Dhangars migrating to Western Satara and Marathwada region were selected from the Maan block of the Satara district. Two hundred households were surveyed under this study. To collect the qualitative data, four Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) were conducted (one FGD in each village) to understand the community’s perception regarding traditional livelihood pattern, contemporary changes and access to policy level provisions in the study area.
Results and Discussion
The following findings describe the plight of the community in getting access to the policies discussed below.
a) Access about governmental schemes
The focus of this study was to understand the livelihood of the Dhangars, emphasis was given to exploring the status of livelihood-related schemes such as Sheep and Goat Development Corporation, Vasantrao Naik De-notified and Nomadic Tribes Development Corporation, access to tribes and forests act and status of health and education. Awareness and access was assessed based on these schemes.
Table 1: Access of Governmental Schemes
Category Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 17 8.5
No 183 92
Total 200 100

In the study area, it was found that 92 per cent of the households do not have access to governmental schemes on education, health, forests and tribes act and livelihood schemes of Development Corporation made for the Dhangars. Finding shows that the majority of the respondents did not have easy access to governmental schemes. It shows the gap in the process of implementation of various schemes. Findings also show that there are loopholes in the process of policy awareness and implementation of the schemes.
b) Reasons for not getting access to governmental schemes
It was found that 80 per cent of respondents do not have easy access to govern-mental schemes because of the lack of the awareness of schemes. The information about schemes has not been properly disseminated to the community. The rest of the respondents have reported that lack of education and corruption in the schemes affects in gaining access to various governmental schemes. It shows that the government system has failed in creating awareness about the various welfare schemes.
The table shows that around 70 per cent of the respondents are illiterate and the rest have either completed their primary or high school studies and only three per cent of them have completed higher secondary schooling. Most of the respondents were illiterate; it is because of not having access to education due to their nomadic life. High illiteracy rate was found among the respondents.
Table-2: Status of Education
Category Frequency Percentage
Illiterate 134 67
Primary 38 19
Middle School 22 11
HSC 6 3
Total 200 100

According to the 2011 census, though the Maharashtra state has high literacy rate i.e. 82.34% the same data is not reflected when it comes to the nomadic community’s educational status. The Dhangar community’s involvement in traditional occupation represents the lowest percentage; this has left the community vulnerable to cope for their survival.
c) Overall Scenario of Health and Response of State
Delivery and access of health care services to nomadic populations is difficult as the pastoralists migrate from one place to another continuously. Since they are on the move, it is difficult to gather the data related to their health status. Seasonal migration has a significant influence on the health of the Dhangars. Empirical evidences show that the nomadic communities have always missed the programs under national flagship. These arguments can be substantiated by the following field data:
It was found through Focus Group Discussion that:
i. While on the move, the respondents face lots of health problems and find it difficult to get access to the public health care services. The community does not have access to safe drinking water within the area therefore are infected by various waterborne diseases. Women have to fetch water from around a distance of 2 to 3 kilometers.
ii. Due to their nomadic lifestyle, they do not have access to proper medical facilities either in their native or in migratory villages.
iii. Child marriage is also observed in their community. During pregnancy, getting antenatal check-up is difficult for women. The survey of nomads noted that 90 per cent women and children were malnourished and lived in unhygienic conditions. The incidence of gastro-intestinal diseases caused due to eating unclean meat (Mane, 1997).
It was found that there is no proper response of public health care system for both settled and migratory population therefore the community faces health vulnerabilities in terms of accessibility and availability of the health care services.
d). Status of access to Development Corporation Related Schemes
In Maharashtra, in order to provide developmental support to the shepherds, the government established the Goat and Sheep Development Corporation in 1978. The department was started with the objective of ameliorating the conditions of the shepherds through improving the production of the sheep and goats and also provide market and economic support.
In 1984, Vasantrao Naik Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribes Development Corporation were established with the objective of providing financial support for the livelihood improvement of nomadic and de-notified tribes. The corporation also had the aim of providing loan subsidies to start self- employment and other enterprises.
Table-3: Awareness about Goat and Sheep Development Corporation
Category Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 110 55
No 90 45
Total 200 100

It was found that only 55 per cent of the respondents were aware of this scheme. It shows that almost half of the studied respondents were not aware about specially formulated scheme for the Dhangars.
Table-4: Beneficiaries of Goat and Sheep Development Corporation
Category Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 26 13
No 174 87
Total 200 100

In the study villages, it was found that 87 per cent of the respondents hadn’t benefitted from the Goat and Sheep Development Corporation. It shows that the beneficiaries of the corporation were very few. The majority of the households were not benefited by the schemes of corporation. It shows the failure of this corporation in propagating and implementing the schemes properly.
In the study, it was found that only 13 per cent of the households received material benefits in the form of veterinary medicines. And only one per cent of the respondent got financial benefits in the form of shepherd insurance. It is a very dismal picture.
Table: 5 Benefits Got Under Goat and Sheep Development Corporation
Category Yes (%) No (%) Total
Material Benefits-Veterinary Medicines 26 (13%) 174 (87%) 200(100%)
Financial Benefits-Shepherd Insurance 2 (1%) 198 (99%) 200(100%)

The shepherd insurance is given to the shepherd when any accident or death takes place. The other benefits like providing scholarships to the children of the shepherd community also has not reached a single household. As compared to material benefits (veterinary medicines), the financial benefits have not been channelized effectively. There is a huge gap between awareness and implementation of the schemes coming under the Goat and Sheep Development Corporation. It means the schemes designed by this corporation have not properly reached the community.
Table-5: Awareness about Vasantrao Naik Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribes Development Corporation
Category Frequency Percentage (%)
Yes 12 6
No 188 94
Total 200 100

In the study area it was found that the majority i.e. 94 per cent of the respondents were not aware about Vasantrao Naik Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribes Development Corporation which was exclusively established for the nomadic and de-notified tribes. Despite its establishment in 1984, awareness of its schemes has not been adequately created. It may be because of the half-hearted efforts by the corporation.
e) Beneficiaries of Vasantrao Naik Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribes Development Corporation
None of the households in the selected villages had benefited from the schemes of the Corporation. It points to the poor implementation of the schemes of the corporation in the study area. The corporation has unique importance in availing the loan subsidies and financial grants for the promotion of livelihood activities. It shows that there is an exclusion of this community from the financial policies made under this development corporation.
f) Awareness and access to Tribes and Forest Dwellers Act-2006
The Act gives access of forests to the tribes and other forest dwelling communi-ties. Sub-Section 1 (d) of Section 3: covers other community rights for use or entitlements, such as fish and other products of water bodies, grazing and access to traditional seasonal resources by nomadic or pastoral communities (Samarthan NGO and UNDP Report, 2012). For generations, Dhangars have been passing through the forests which were traditional migratory routes. According to the Act, the community has option to claim on access to forest grazing.
It was found that the respondents were neither aware of the Tribes and Forest Act nor benefited from it. The argument of the forest officer of Satara district supports this fact that ‘still this act is not implemented effectively in the district. There are problems in availing various benefits to the forest dwellers.’ Since 2006, no effort has been made for the implementation of this act.
g) Access to Veterinary Medical Schemes
In the study area, around 90 per cent of the households have not received governmental veterinary medical services within their areas. Despite the veterinary provisions for the livestock, the households did not get access to governmental veterinary services within their native villages. The veterinary medical services have unique importance in terms of preventing outbreak of animal diseases.
i. Ashram or residential schools should be established for the children of nomadic Dhangars and educational scholarships should be made available for their children.
ii. Although difficult, mobile clinics can be an effective way to treat the health issues.
iii. The special grants and interest free loans should be provided by the development corporations.
iv. During livelihood shocks, financial assistance and pre-disease vaccine and medicines should be provided through the veterinary department.
v. The drought prone area development plan should asses the livelihood needs of these groups.
vi. The government should allocate specific areas for grazing. According to traditional migratory routes, the government should ensure the inclusion of the nomadic pastoralists under Tribes and Forest Dwellers Act.
To make inclusive policies for the Dhangars, the government should formulate concrete strategies which can help the community to have secured livelihood. In order to advance towards inclusive development, emphasis should not be given just on the community rights to access services, but also their rights to productive resources, land and forests, as well as an active involvement in political governance (Xaxa and Nathan, 2012). It is a very effective way to make an inclusion of the pastoralists.
The whole analysis shows that the existing policies are not enough for the overall development of the pastoralists. Those policies have limited scope in solving the problems of the Dhangars. The whole discourse shows that though there have been some policy provisions for the Dhangars; poor inclusive efforts are taken by the state for the development of this group. This fact can be substantiated with the argument of economist Sukhdev Thorats i.e. unfair exclusion or unfair inclusion results in high poverty and low human development among the excluded groups. This exclusion has left this group in marginalization. The findings clearly reveal the fact that the status of education, health, and access to schemes of development corporations and Tribes and Forest Dwellers Act is very poor. Therefore, the community is excluded from the welfare measures and programs. To sum up, it is clear that social policy strategies aimed at social inclusion have to deal with a highly complex reality and require more than traditional policy measures (Mayes, (2001). The government should focus on the overall development of the nomadic Dhangars so that they can live a peaceful life.