Nilgai menace gives Bihar farmers sleepless nights
Both officials and locals say the reason for the growing Nilgai menace lies in the state’s dwindling forest cover. Robbed of their natural habitat, the animals raid agricultural fields regularly.india Updated: Sep 28, 2017 21:45 IST
Laxman Yadav is still spending sleepless nights, keeping a vigil over his farmland in Chakki village of Bihar’s Buxar district. He stays awake to keep nilgais and wild boars from feeding on his standing crop.”Nahi jagengey to khana kaha se milega,” (If I don’t remain awake, where will I get food from), he asks.
In staying awake through the night, Yadav is not alone.
Thousands of farmers across the region are also keeping him company, sitting atop machaans (makeshift bamboo platforms) they have erected to keep an eye on their standing crop.
As the population of nilgais (locally called ghar roj or ghurparas) multiplies, so have the worries of the farmers. The fleet-footed animals regularly forage into agricultural fields in search of food, heaping more misery on the farmers already faced with escalating input costs and declining remunerative prices for their produce.
“The situation is as bad as ever,” laments Yadav, some two years after the Central government approved the Bihar state Wildlife Board’s plea to declare nilgais and wild boars as vermin.
Despite an uproar from wildlife conservationists, orders to cull nilgais were permitted between December 2015 and November 2016 and a professional hunter called in from Hyderabad for the purpose.
The shooter, Nawab Shafath Ali Khan, went around the most-affected districts of Bihar, taking aim at the nilgais with precision. By last count, some 2,800 nilgais were killed. For a while, hopes of the farmers soared with every shot that rang out. But at the end, they still find themselves at the mercy of the marauding nilgais.
“The menace of nilgais is increasing day by day. Already, the agricultural produce has fallen over the years,” regretted Vinod Rai, the owner of 12 acres of farm land in Buxar’s Doorashan area.
Both officials and locals say the reason for the growing menace lies in the state’s dwindling forest cover. ““Forest cover in Bihar has come down sharply after bifurcation of the state in the year 2000, and stands at a poor 6.87%. Out of 38 districts, only 12 have natural forests. At present, Bihar stands sixth at the bottom in terms of forest cover among states in the country,” pointed out chief wildlife warden, Bharat Jyoti.
Robbed of their natural habitat, nilgais raid agricultural fields regularly. Farmers are demanding immediate action and it prompted officials of Vaishali and Nalanda districts to permit the killing of nilgais in 2017, long after the central government- approved window for culling them had expired. Some 175 nilgais were killed consequently.
But farmers such as Yadav say “too little is being done too late”. Yadav, for one, insists he can only afford to sleep peacefully once all the nilgais were killed.
The mood among the farmers in Bihar will give wildlife enthusiasts sleepless nights.