At a time when the country imports 2-3 million tonnes of pulses every year, Uttar Pradesh’s farmers can just watch in despair as over 300,000 Nilgai destroy 60 to 70 per cent of pulse crop in the state.
The Nilgai menace recently prompted Rashtriya Lok Dal leader Munna Singh Chauhan to warn the Uttar Pradesh legislature thus: “Today we are buying arhar at Rs 90 per kg. Tomorrow, if the menace is not controlled, we will be paying even more.”
Now, the state government wants the central government to allow unrestricted hunting of the biggest Asian antelope, also called the Blue Bull.
A senior forest department official, speaking to HT on condition of anonymity, said the central government had turned down the state’s plea to amend the Wild Life Conservation Act that prohibits the hunting of Nilgai without permission from a government authority.
At 1.6 million tonnes, Uttar Pradesh produces about 10 per cent of the nation’s 15 million tonne annual pulse output. The demand for pulses in the country is between 17 million tonne to 18 million tonne. The shortfall is met through imports.
According to J.B. Singh, joint director of pulses, government of Uttar Pradesh, the Nilgai damages 60-70 per cent of the state’s pulse crop sown in an area spread over two to 2.2 million hectares.
“Blue bulls are turning out to be enemy number one of crops,” said Singh.
An inexpensive source of protein, pulses don’t need too much water for cultivation. Rotated with cereals, they also help control pests and diseases.
The Blue Bull population has risen sharply because the female of the species breeds twice a year, forests have shrunk, and the carnivores that kept a check on their population are disappearing.
Also, owing to the antelope’s nomenclature, which has gai (cow) in it, the local Hindus consider it sacred.
Under the existing law, anyone can kill a Nilgai if he or she has a licenced gun, gets the government’s permission, and hands over the carcass to the forest department. Wildlife expert Aqil Farooqi said a free licence to kill the Nilgai might endanger the species.
Another solution being researched by the Saharanpur-based Remount Training School and Depot is castrating male bulls with the assistance of the Indian Wild Life Institute, Deharadun.