Residents in the Karopani village of Dindori, Madhya Pradesh are seeking government intervention to free them of the menace posed by a pack of 1000 odd blackbucks they nurtured giving up 500 acres of agricultural land owned by them.
Karopani, an otherwise non-descript hamlet of around 1400, is a community that stands apart for its conservation effort as residents in MP did not just risk their lives to ward off poachers but also pulled back their fences, giving up land they had been cultivating for generations.
Despite being aware of the rich profit the wildlife could fetch, the Karopani villagers decided to nurture and protect the animal that first came here nearly 40 years ago.
The Karopani effort paid off and the number of blackbucks in the area rose from some 50 in 2000 to over 1000 in 2008. But the villagers have now realised that kindness had played a cruel trick on them.
For the black-backed creatures, which now number over 1,000, roam around the fields, destroying crops worth crores of rupees and in the process ruining the livelihood of several farmers in Karopani and neighbouring villages.
The swell in numbers while delighting the villagers has led to problems, they now want the government to take note of and either relocate the animal to a safe place or notify the area by compensating for the land.
"We had been requesting the local administration and forest department to acquire the land and compensate the farmers. By doing so they can ensure protection of these wild animals also. But to no avail," says Karopani sarpanch Kashi Maravi.
According to the village sarpanch about eight to 10 attempts to poach black bucks were made by nomadic hunters, but alert villagers foiled their bids. We don't allow any unidentified people to loiter around the area where black bucks graze, still the poachers come at night, he added.
Fearing the safety of the animals, the villagers have been maintaining a vigil, but it is now imperative that the government must look for their protection, Maravi says.
Besides, Karopani, the inhabitants of around 10 villages including Khargena, Chirkutiya, Hirdatyola, Buidhgaon, Beedha, Pindrukhi, Tunda-where black bucks frequent-want the area to be notified as a protected area under the relevant provision of the Wildlife Protection (amendment) Act, 2002.
Amma Das, who has abandoned 11 acres of his field, says; Earlier, two or three crops were cultivated each year, but the blackbucks have forced a change in the crop pattern. "For whom should we grow more than one crop? For the blackbucks?" asks a distraught farmer.
Uttam Das, Kamla Bai, Lakhan Das, Gaya Prasad, Bhage Bai, Gusiya Bai, Andru, Pancham and Dalpath Singh who have abandoned their fields just because of the black buck menace had similar versions.
Driven by desperation, the black bucks seek to slake their thirst in villages, in the process destroying crop and causing a nuisance to farmers. The villagers had to make arrangements to provide water, knowing fully well that the black bucks face certain death if left to the mercy of the Forest Department.
"A special budget was allotted to the forest officials for construction of a pond for these animals, but god knows where the money has been siphoned of" the village sarpanch claims. The villagers have made a small artificial lake in their barren fields for the animals.
"We shall tolerate the destruction of our crops but won't commit sin by killing the deer," says Dalpath Singh, who is even ready to donate 11 acres of his land to government.
Manoj Agrawal, chief conservator of forest (Dindori): We are trying to find a proper solution in coordination with the district administration. But nothing can be worked out without detailed study.
Collector (Dindori) C S Borkar: We are in the process of converting the entire area into a natural resource. Details are being collected. A request is being made to the farmers to donate their lands Villagers have abandoned farming in some areas many portions so we have requested them to donate their lands. Some of them are even ready.