Saurabh Hatkar, who collected 12,000 postcards with demands of his community and sent them to the CM, aims to go abroad and return with knowledge to better their lives
Saurabh Hatkar (with the mic) talks to shepherds
After spending months last year travelling to the interiors of Maharashtra to give a voice to shepherds, 29-year-old Saurabh Hatkar, is now going to approach the government seeking help for himself. Hatkar is headed to meet the state’s ministers at the monsoon Assembly session to be held this month, to request the government for monetary help in the form of a scholarship so he can study at the University of Edinburgh. His research topic is shepherds’ livelihood.
The cost of tuition for a year is Rs 25,86,864 plus living expenses and the course is for three years. Hatkar is an OBC under denotified and nomadic tribes. He said the government has kept 50 seats for scholarships abroad for OBCs. He is also demanding more seats for OBCs as they have the most population with the least amount of seats. He wants 75 seats for OBC, out of which 10 seats should be for denotified and nomadic tribes.
The postcard initiative
The shepherd from Hiwarkhed village in Buldhana, collected 12,000 postcards from other shepherds in Sangli, Yavatmal and Amravati, etc. with their many demands written on them, including lifting of the colonial 1927 Indian Forest Act that prevents shepherds from taking their livestock to graze in forests. He sent the postcards to the chief minister in October 2022, meeting Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis later during the winter session of the state assembly in Nagpur.Fadnavis assured him of looking into the issue.
“The archaic and colonial 1927 Indian Forest Act prevents shepherds from taking their livestock to graze in forests. It is said we damage forest resources by doing so. In fact, we contribute to giving soil manure, help seed dispersion and our livestock only eats grass and leaves of plants. This is their coexistence in the food chain. We want our knowledge of the parameters of overgrazing to be taken into account. Stopping us to ‘preserve’ forest resources doesn’t make sense, as after independence mining companies and factories were allowed to destroy forests,” Hatkar said.
Hatkar, a graduate from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, claims that this law has been forcing shepherds to take up labourer’s jobs which is a move from the independent, entrepreneurial life that they lead.
‘What ails them’
Having travelled to various parts of Maharashtra to collect the postcards, he said “I understood that lack of education, superstitions, patriarchy and child marriage are what prevents shepherds from thinking independently, and this is what I want to improve using the knowledge I gain in Scotland. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was educated in the UK and used his learning to better society. I want to do the same,” said Hatkar, who is the president of the first organisation of nomadic shepherds in the state, the Mendhpal Putra Sena (army of sons of shepherds).
Here’s how you can help...
>> What Hatkar needs Rs 25,86,864: Tuition fees for a year of his course
>> Please call 9604079143 or connect with him on email@example.com