Aayushi Malhotra

Biography

Aayushi Malhotra is a PhD student in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at BITS, PILANI, Rajasthan in India. She is working on the socio-ecological transitions in pastoral systems in Himachal Pradesh, India, using an ethnographic approach. As a part of her research project, she is mapping the interdependent domains of livelihoods, resource usage and governance as well as the emerging identity of actors from the shifting development discourses. Aayushi is a first-generation doctoral candidate and aspires to be an applied social anthropologist to contribute towards the betterment of society by using holistic and relativistic development approaches.

Abstract

Does increasing political representation enable securing of alternative livelihoods? Mapping the process of de-pastoralisation and emerging political leadership among the Gaddi community of Himachal Pradesh in India

Gaddi, a traditional agro-pastoral community of Himachal Pradesh in India, is gradually diversifying to several formal and informal economic avenues. Their de-pastoralisation is a result of complex interactions between various socio-economic, political and ecological forces in play. In this paper, I specifically aim to map the role of increasing political foothold of the Gaddi community in influencing the status of their traditional agro-pastoral livelihood. The available pastoral literature generally highlights the missing political linkages of pastoralists as a primary reason for their continued vulnerability and peripheral socio-economic positions. It also suggests their underrepresentation or absenteeism from the decision-making platforms to be responsible for sidelining of the pastoral profession. However, in the case of Gaddis, despite their strong political influence and increased decision-making powers, a declining trend in their traditional agro-pastoral occupation is observed. Whereas, increased instances of choice-making for the alternative livelihoods and income diversification guided by the mainstream development thinking are on the rise. It presents a paradox where the role of increasing political leadership from within the communities in influencing the status of their traditional livelihoods remains unclear and unquestioned. Therefore, in this paper, I broadly address the two following questions- How the emergence of political leadership from within the community affect their traditional occupation? and does it strengthen the traditional livelihood practices or facilitate the alternative livelihoods to enable the effects of larger political economy to trickle down to the local level? Through both these questions, I aim to capture the process of de-pastoralisation among Gaddis in the context of their increasing political stronghold within the state of Himachal Pradesh. This paper fills a gap in understanding whether the community based political participation helps in strategically promoting the traditional livelihoods (in this case, pastoralism) or ends up borrowing the existing mainstream ideas that discard these practices as a backward occupation in need of replacement with the more modern and diversified alternatives.

Affiliation: Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani