Marauding monkeys have always remained a major poll issue in Himachal Pradesh during Lok Sabha and assembly elections. However, this time, other wild animals have joined the list of “menace-causers”, giving jitters to those in the fray.
The monkey population in the state has remained a major problem for the farming community, which has repeatedly asked the governments to find a permanent solution to the growing menace, as it is taking a heavy toll on farming activities.
Major parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, have been promising people that they would tackle the issue, but nothing concrete has been done yet. Though the government has initiated a project to sterilise monkeys to control their growing population, people feel that the efforts are not enough, and other wild animals also need to be dealt with.
The gover nment has so far sterilised 77,380 monkeys since the project was started in 2007.
Himachal Gyan Vigyan Samiti director Satyavaan Pundir told HT that agriculturists and horticulturists in the state were being threatened by wild animals other than monkeys.
A study conducted two years ago showed that the troubles caused by animals have affected 2,301 panchayats. The animals have caused losses up to Rs. 500 crore annually.
“Farmers have to spend more on deploying manual force to protect their crops from wild animals, resulting in extra financial burden,” he said.
The wild animal menace in many parts of the state, particularly in the low-lying hills and plains, has forced people to abandon farming activities. In the Dehra sub-division of Kang ra district, farmers in more than 20 panchayats have given up traditional farming to take up other work to provide for their families.
The situation is no better in Hamirpur, Una, Bilaspur, Solan and Sir mour districts, and except for in the tribal Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti districts, tackling the menace has become difficult for the farmers.
In the lowerbelts, wildboards, nilgai, deer and hare are giving a harrowing time to farmers.
“Both state and central governments need to do something to protect the farmers’ interests. Wild animals are adding to the woes of farmers. The government should devise some strategy to tackle the animals other than monkeys, who are damaging crops on a large scale,” said Hukkam Chand, a resident of Kunnan village in the Nalagarh sub-division of Solan district.
Ram Singh of Bhoranj said the area was facing the wrath of leopards, but no one was there to solve their problems, adding that the state government and forest department should take steps to solve the problem.
“Hare are giving sleepless nights to villagers in the Kasumpti assembly segment, as they have destroyed the pea crop. When I visited my fields on Monday morning, I saw that the entire pea crop had been destroyed by the animals,” claimed Amar Singh, a resident of Patgyar village in Kasumpti. In Rohru and Jubbal constituencies, fruit crops are under attack by fruit bats.
(With inputs from Arvind Kashyap and Punkaj Bhaartiya)