The first-ever toll free “Maldhari helpline” meant for disseminating information to this community of nomadic tribal herdsmen in Gujarat and other states was launched in Patan on Saturday, on the sidelines of the fifth Maldhari parliament that saw around 2,000 participants.
Maldharis, who constitute an estimated 8-10 per cent of the total population of Gujarat, engages in pastoralism that has been an important occupation in semi-arid regions of the state, especially in Kutch, Saurashtra and north Gujarat.
“Maldhari” or herdsmen are a group of semi-nomadic or nomadic people who have been traditionally rearing livestock. For them, livestock rearing is not only their only livelihood, but also an inseparable part of their identity and culture, that is to say their way of life.
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The helpline number (1800-103-8700), launched by an Ahmedabad-based NGO, will relay information on cattle rearing, cattle grooming, primary healthcare of animals, medical emergencies, weather updates, loans, subsidies and government schemes that can be availed by Maldharis and is meant to reach out to the community that is still largely illiterate.
“The number has been active since the past 15 days and we have been getting at least 10 calls a day. Some of these are from Rajasthan. Currently we have two lines to handle the calls. Maldharis can seek information and expert advice on matters relating to livestock, weather, health, education, legal among others. The helpline is a modern version of the traditional communication system of Maldharis called lakadiya taar,” said an official of Bhavna Desai Marag, the NGO, who looks after data for the helpline.