The yaks died due to starvation earlier this year due to heavy and prolonged snowfall in Muguthang and Lashyar valley and Lachen valley Credit: File image

Gangtok: The Sikkim High Court has pulled up the state government and the state animal husbandry department officials for not paying the ex gratia of Rs 45.90 lakh to the rightful owners on account of death of more than 300 yaks due to starvation earlier this year due to heavy and prolonged snowfall in Muguthang and Lashyar valley and Lachen valley.

The division bench headed by Chief Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan on Thursday directed the state respondents to disburse the aforesaid amount within a period of four months from the date of order to the rightful recipients of the amount.

The court noted that the decision to set up a buffer stock of feeder and fodder procurement under the natural calamity fund of deputy commissioner, North Sikkim, as a contingency plan, has not actually been implemented and directed the state respondents to implement in letter and spirit and steps contemplated, as indicated in the reports and the affidavits.

Disposing of the PIL, the bench observed that though the government has constructed 10 hay godown-cum-yak shelters in Lachen Valley but it does not appear that any such facility has been constructed in Muguthang and Lashyar area adding that to avert a situation as witnessed in the last winter, respondents shall consider to set up a couple of such facilities in those two areas as the past experience had shown that neither the yaks can come down nor relief materials can reach when it is most needed because of thick blanket of snow.

The court further directed that the state animal husbandry department has to adopt and formulate strategies to combat a disaster and shall take a decision with regard to construction of paddock and supply of essential items, such as tents in view of situation like last winter.

While explaining the court step in taking up suo motu cognizance on death of more than 300 yaks due to starvation the judgment said that the calamity and to nudge the respondents to come up with appropriate measures to tackle the situation should there be a recurrence of unprecedented snowfall for a prolonged period. The court further said that it will be necessary for the respondents to be vigilant and they must take immediate rear-guard action with no loss of time by implementing the decisions in the field.

On the short-term measure suggestions placed by amicus curiae Jorgay Namkha for around 1,000 yaks along with its herders will be in and around Muguthang region and approximately same number of yaks in and around Gurudongmar side, the bench directed the state to make immediately provision to supply complete feed block and chelated mineral mixture fodder enough to last three months approximately 1,80,000 kg to the yak herders at Muguthang and Gurudongmar, and the same should be done before the end of November this year.

As per the state government’s latest survey conducted in the second week of October, 2019, there are 79 yak herding households under North Sikkim district with a yak population of 3,230 of which 1184 are male, 1585 are female and 461 are young calves.

At present, there are six yak rearing zones in North Sikkim, Muguthang Valley (Lachen Dzumsa), Lashyar Valley (Lachen Dzumsa), Yumthang / Yumesamdong (Lachung Dzumsa), Sebu/Domang (Lachung Dzumsa), Chyakhung (Naga Forest) and Tholung (Upper Dzongu). The maximum numbers of yak herding households are in Muguthang Valley with 48, followed by Lashyar Valley with 30 yak herding households. Migration pattern of yak rearing in Muguthang Valley and Lashyar Valley is shown to be towards higher altitude during winter.

The chief secretary in his affidavit assured the court that the state government has kept aside an amount of Rs 26,09,000 during the financial year 2019-2020 for the welfare of yaks and that the said fund would be utilised for purchase of feed and fodder (complete feed block) and also for purchase of ambulance, medicines and equipment, procurement of tents and other contingency expenditure.

As an interim relief, a fund to the tune of Rs 18,10,000 has been arranged, out of which Rs 9,20,000 is to be used for purchase of complete feed block for 20 MT and a sum of Rs 8,89,000 is to be used for purchase of an ambulance. It is stated that the planning and development department has committed to provide fund in the supplementary budget.

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