More than four million nomads reside in Gujarat and approximately 60 million exist in the country. It was shocking to find there was no data or information available on them even in the government departments. Though the government is aware of certain communities, to avail of the benefits, people are supposed to submit a number of documents. These, unfortunately, they did not possess. The benefits, therefore, reached them in a very limited way. We are now working for 40 nomadic and de-notified tribes in eight districts of Gujarat.
Running an NGO, Vicharata Samuday Samarthan Manch, Patel has aided thousands with fading livelihoods, whose existence was hardly recognised or acknowledged by the state or the central government.
Nomads earlier provided services such as sharpening knives and weapons, repairing tools and supplied a variety of goods including ornaments, perfumes and medicinal herbs. During the days of princely states, they accompanied a king’s convoy to help them repair their carts. But due to industrialisation, traditional occupations became non-existent for them.
Mittal has been striving to find alternative employment for men and women and is working towards providing educational facilities for the children. She has been instrumental in helping them claim land rights, getting voter ID cards and fighting with bureaucrats to extend welfare schemes for them.
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