In a controversial move, the Maharashtra government has legalised the hunting of nilgai, also known as blue bull, as well as wild boars, if they are found damaging crops.
After the forest department order, the Maharashtra government is drafting a proposal to be forwarded to the Centre, seeking permission to declare these animals as ‘vermin’. This will enable hunting them down for a specified amount of time in specific areas. The state has, however, added that they cannot be hunted in national parks and wildlife sancturaies.
Wildlife activists have slammed this move, equating the sanction to poaching. Research has shown such a conflict exists in many states across the country, which allows the killing animals that destroy crops.
According to the new plan, farmers whose crops are damaged can register complaints with the local range forest officers and ask for permission to hunt these animals down. The permissions have to be given within 24 hours. However, the farmers can kill the animals even if the decision is not made in a day’s time.
Incidentally, the state government had recently fixed the rates for paying compensating to farmers whose agricultural land and fruit orchards were damaged by animals or insects. Officials in the forest department said the crackdown on the two animals comes after the government came across after numerous cases of these animals causing losses to farmers.
While there have been cases of crop damage registered by farmers, forest officials told Hindustan Times that there was no specific data on just how much of this damage was caused by these two animals.
State forests minister Sudhir Mungantiwar confirmed this and said it was being done to provide relief to farmers.
Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, an NGO which works on environmental issues called the decision “atrocious, shocking and unacceptable”. “This is nothing but giving blanket consent for poaching. The government has failed to protect wildlife and its habitats and instead of correcting that, it is allowing the murder of animals.”
However, Arvind Apte, officer on special duty in the forests department, said there was no effective alternative available. “We were considering options such as solar fencing of fields and even building compound walls around wildlife habitats, but both are impractical solutions.”
Hunting: Govt’s most viable solution
* The state government has decided to legalise killing of nilgai (blue bull) and wild boars, if they are cause crop damage
* Terming the move controversial, activists say the state may find it difficult to ensure the order is not misused
* The state forest department said there have been numerous cases of damage to crops because of nilgais and wild boars.
* Damage caused (From 2008 to 2014)
* Agricultural area affected by animals: 10,530 hectares
* Total cases of crops or orchards being damaged: Over 23,000
(This includes damage by animals such as elephants, deer, monkeys, blue bulls and wild boars)
"Section 12 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, does allow for hunting of specific animals if they are damaging crops. However, hunting is an unviable solution to begin with. In addition, the way such a decision will be implemented will have to watched very carefully. Unless precautions are taken, there is every chance that this may encourage poaching."
~Ritwick Dutta, environmental lawyer