About three summers ago, I walked an hour-and-a-half into the village of Gonap, from Binsar, in the Himalayas. The walk was spectacular, and so was Gonap.
One thing, though, was disturbing — there were only six families left in the village, down from 15 the previous year. Over time, this pesticide-free farming hamlet had declined in size.
Families would walk off, never to return. We repeatedly heard how the wild boar had made it impossible to farm. In one night, they would destroy an entire season’s crop, pushing the farmer into debt. I heard the same from farming communities in Bihar, but about Nilgai and porcupines.
In sum, small farmers across the country seem to be fed up of being rendered impoverished by wildlife.
Hence, I find it acceptable that culling specific animals in various states be allowed at the panchayat level. We also have to re-think policies: monkeys caught in Delhi are sent to forests in the mountains, where they previously rarely existed. They raid crops for survival and may get culled. Why dump a city problem on rural India?
Culling has to be well documented, the animals killed carefully monitored to prevent other species from being killed. The onus is now on the Wildlife Department to ensure that not every farmer has a gun, but identified gunmen are called in to cull.
Otherwise, as climate change makes farming hard, we will see an increase in poaching and a violent gun culture in rural India.
(The writer is director, Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)