Changpa nomadic pastoralists: differing responses to change in Ladakh, north-west India

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Author: Sarah Goodall
Date: Dec. 2004
From: Nomadic Peoples(Vol. 8, Issue 2)
Publisher: The White Horse Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 3,517 words

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This brief report presents some findings of a study conducted among the nomadic pastoral Changpa in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh. The research forms the basis of a doctoral dissertation in human geography, focusing on the rural to urban migration of nomads in Ladakh. The study uses the theoretical literature on human migration to examine the sedentarisation process that has gained momentum in the latter decades of the Twentieth Century. The sedentarisation of nomadic pastoralists in Ladakh is taking place amidst a global trend toward settlement (Barfield 1993; Blench 2001). Despite a few exceptions, where pastoralism either continues to thrive or is being revitalised by market reforms, many nomadic pastoral communities are facing an unprecedented rate of change, as they are increasingly drawn into national economies. In Ladakh, the external and internal forces of change have had a highly varied impact on the rate of sedentarisation among the Changpa communities in Rupshu-Kharnak. Three groups were studied to determine their levels of out-migration and settlement, and to explore both the causes and consequences of the decision to settle. While many studies focus on the proximate causes of migration, that is, the individual reasons for moving away, this research attempts to assess the influence of the broader social and economic changes taking place in Ladakh. Migration is understood to be a household-level decision taken within a broader context of structural change. Government policies and interventions can influence migration behaviour directly and indirectly, in terms of providing the economic opportunities and other (dis)incentives (associated with conditions of uneven development) that attract migrants to towns and urban centres. The vast body of literature pertaining to rural to urban migration has emerged from empirical analyses of sedentary populations and the movement from an agricultural livelihood to an urban, industrial setting. Inherent characteristics of mobile pastoralism, as a distinct livelihood strategy, influence the type of rural to urban migration and the overall capacity to migrate; factors which make sedentarisation a distinct form of rural to urban migration.

The Region

Ladakh is a semi-autonomous region in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which shares highly sensitive borders with Pakistan to the north and China to the east. As a result of its geopolitical situation and ongoing border tensions, the Indian armed forces have maintained a strong presence in Ladakh since the 1960s. The associated increase in government spending on infrastructure and in the demand for goods and services has had a significant impact on the local economy. However, the benefits of this 'development', which have included construction of transport, health care and educational facilities, have been largely focused in the district capital, Leh. The town, and indeed region, has undergone rapid social and economic transformation during this period (Goldstein 1981; Rizvi 1996 [1983], 1999; Michaud 1996; Bhasin 1999). Throughout the region, there has been a shift away from traditional subsistence agriculture toward the service sector, including tourism, and an increasing reliance on heavily subsidised imports. Migrants are being drawn toward the urban area from villages...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A139430676