On the horns of a blue bull

On the horns of a blue bull

But then Ram Pyare is not an isolated case. There is a burgeoning increase in complaints from affluent to marginal farmers from across the State about how they have suffered immensely due to the extensive damage caused to the crops by the nilgais.

The nilgai (Boselaphus tragocamelus), sometimes called nilgau, is an antelope, and is one of the most commonly seen wild animals of central and northern India, eastern Pakistan and parts of southern Nepal. The mature males are ox-like and are also known as blue bulls.

Yet another farmer from Bikramganj, Dularchand, echoes a similar view. “I have five acres of land in Central Bihar. But the nilgais have, of late, damaged lentil crops like arhar and moong (pulses), thereby adversely affecting their production,” he lamented.

Farmers in several districts where the Ganga and Gandak basin exists, is likely to face huge losses as crops of wheat, maize, vegetables and pulses are damaged by herds of nilgais. These animals not only graze in farmlands but also damage standing crops.

The matter was raised even before Chief Minister Nitish Kumar when he undertook Vishwas Yatra.  “There are thousands of nilgais. A female antelope breeds twice a year,” explained Ram Pyare, emphasising on the need to capture and sterilise them.

Farmers in many parts of Bihar have put up bars and barricades to protect the crops from nilgais and continuously monitor their fields. “Though we have put up barricades on all four sides of the agricultural land to protect the crops from antelopes’ menace, we are literally spending sleepless nights to save our crops, which is the only source of our livelihood,” said Ramdeo Rai of Vaishali.

The Bihar Agricultural Management and Extension Training Institute (BAMETI) recently organizsed a workshop on the issue in which representatives of the State Government and other experts dwelt at length how to overcome this problem. The meeting, which was attended by Chief Conservator of Forests, wildlife experts and activists of NGOs, deliberated on the issue and suggested ways and means to protect the crops.

One of the suggestions was to empower mukhiyas to issue gun licences to kill these animals and make them honorary wildlife warden. But the suggestion was immediately shot down. “As per the Indian culture, Hindus consider nilgais as sacred because of the nomenclature. It has gai (cow) in it, and therefore it can’t be gunned down,” many said.

The other reason for the increase in antelopes’ population is the shrinking forest. The carnivores that kept a check on their population are fast dwindling. As a consequence, the wild herbivores nowadays roam freely and, of late, have entered the man's land. But ultimately, it's the poor farmers who are paying a heavy price for no fault of theirs.

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