Stray cattle destroying crops in Kandi, Bet areas
In the Bet (floodplains along the river) area, herds of roz (feral cows) come out of nowhere at night and invade the farms.punjab Updated: Dec 15, 2017 13:08 IST
The stray cattle menace has spilled over from cities to villages, grazing down farmers' hopes of a good harvest year after year. While farmers in the semi-hilly Kandi and Bet areas mostly face the onslaught of wild animals, those in the plains are waging a war against stray cattle like cows and bulls.
In the Bet (floodplains along the river) area, herds of roz (feral cows) come out of nowhere at night and invade the farms in a big way.
Large groups of these animals completely ravage the fields they enter in, leaving no scope of defence for the land owner. Wild boars also abound in the area.
They destroy standing crops like maize and sugarcane and also prey on vegetables. To add to the farmers’ woes, monkeys from the hilly terrains of neighbouring Himachal Pardesh have also descended on the plains in a big way.
"The feral cows are very aggressive and they attack the crops and human beings in a very organised way. They wipe out the entire crop in one stroke and then return to their hideouts," says Kandi Sangharsh Committee president Darshan Mattoo.
He revealed that an elderly woman was killed by a stray bull in Bora village of Garhshankar tehsil a few months ago.
"It is such a headache. We have to keep round-the-clock vigil and keep ourselves armed with lathis to chase away the stray bovines," said Dilbagh Singh of Mehdood village, whose maize crop has been destroyed by the stray cattle.
"The damage by stray cattle has broken us economically. Wild animals break through the fences and trample our crops," says Jagjit Shergill of Bajwara whose 2-acre potato crop has been eaten away by the wild boars and stray cows.
Raising fencing is not feasible for the farmers due to high costs. "The per acre cost of fencing is nearly ₹3 lakh, which is out of bounds for an average farmer. The government provides no practical solution to save the farmers from this menace", rues Shergill
“After toiling in the fields throughout the day, how it is possible to remain awake in the night to guard our crops,” he asks. "Farming is already a losing proportion in the present times for various reasons. The onslaught of stray animals has dealt a further blow to the farmers", he adds.
He fears that the situation would turn worse in coming years if the ban on cow slaughter remained in place. "The problem is bound to aggravate as more cows that reach the non-productive age will be let loose on the roads or in the fields", adds Shergill.
Chasing away wild animals is not without risk. "They charge at you when you try to shoo them away. Raising bamboo or wire fencing does not help much. Despite remaining awake the whole night, crops are pillaged ", says Kuldip Kumar of Dada village.
Farmers spend nights in a "mana", a cot raised several metres above the ground like a tree house, to escape the ambush of animals.
Majority of the farmers feel that the ban on slaughter of cows has compounded the problem. People free their unproductive cattle in urban areas, which pose a safety risk to the commuters particularly in the night when the cattle become invisible. If the useless cattle are let loose in the village side, it leads to community clashes. Bulls which were earlier used to draw carts and till fields, have also become redundant as farmers now rely on machines.
Wild boars and roz are highly fertile and hence proliferate rapidly. A few years ago, the wildlife department had mooted a plan to declare nuisance animals like wild boar and nilgai (blue bull) 'vermin' to allow their willful hunting but it was grounded in view of protests by animal right groups.
"Farmers can obtain permits to kill wild boar and neelgai on a selective basis but mass killing is not permitted. They can nominate hunters to hunt the destructive animals", informed principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Kuldip Kumar.
He said the state had no machinery to catch the marauding animals which were in such a high number. "Moreover, we have no mechanism to keep the animals even if they are trapped", he added.
Mattoo says the government should give the right to kill wild animals or adopt a sterilization programme to check their population. Vulnerable points in the forest ranges should also be plugged, he adds.