Protected nilgais winning the opium war in Madhya Pradesh

  • Ritesh Mishra & Mustafa Hussain, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jan 13, 2016 16:50 IST
The nilgais, the largest antelopes in Asia, are addicted to opium and stop at nothing to get to it. (Illustration: Jayanto)

Opium-addicted nilgais in Madhya Pradesh have devised a cunning plan to get their daily fix with even electrified fences failing to deter them, say distressed local farmers.

The animals test the fences with the tips of their tails and withdraw if sparks fly.

But if it turns out to be an ordinary fence or if there is a power cut, they examine the strength of the barrier and either try to break it or leap over.

About 30,000 cultivators in the state’s Mandsaur, Neemuch and Ratlam districts grow opium poppy and now the plants are in full bloom. Legal cultivation of opium for medicinal purposes is carried out in certain parts of India under strict licensing conditions.

But the nilgais, the largest antelopes in Asia, are addicted to the plant and stop at nothing to get to it.

After consuming the plants these animals become intoxicated and cause massive damage to the crops.

The farmers are not allowed to kill these animals and have to guard their crops every night. Locals recently held a demonstration in Neemuch demanding action and plan to organise a “fast unto death” this year.

“If the nilgai will eat the opium flower, how will we produce 56 kg in a hectare (the maximum limit) and in the next few years our licence will be taken back. The government should look at us and solve our problem,” said opium cultivator Rajesh Patidar.

Divisional forest officer Mahendra Singh Sisodia said till 2012 crop loss caused by nilgai was compensated by his department but after that the matter was handed over to the revenue department.

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