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Man-animal conflict a key poll issue in Pilibhit LS constituency

By Chandan Kumar
April 16, 2024 01:11 IST
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Even as political leaders are talking of development, modernisation and progress in election rallies, people about 300 villages in the Pilibhit Lok Sabha constituency are still facing one of the most primitive struggles of mankind -- the man-animal conflict.

IMAGE: SP chief Akhilesh Yadav addresses an election rally organized in support of party candidate from Pilibhit constituency Bhagwat Sharan Gangwar (unseen) ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, in Pilibhit, Uttarakhand, April 12, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

People in these villages routinely encounter big cats that stray into their farms from the adjoining Pilibhit Tiger Reserve, a bustling habitat for the Bengal Tiger (Panthera tigris).


Sometimes these encounters even prove fatal. As per official records, more than 22 people from these villages have been mauled to death by tigers since November 2019.

On April 9, hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a political rally in the Puranpur area in support of Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Jitin Prasada, 55-year-old farmer Bhole Ram was mauled to death by a tiger.

While PM Modi, in his address, announced to "take the grandeur of the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve to the world", the family members of Bhole Ram and some other villagers were not pleased.

"Our lives are at the mercy of gods. We don't know when a tiger will leap out of the field and make us or our children its prey," said Paras Rai, a relative of Bhole Ram and resident of the Jamunia village located on the boundary of the PTR.

The village saw deaths of four persons, including Bhole Ram, in the last six months due to tiger attacks.

The deaths have made the man-animal conflict a poll issue in Pilibhit. The villagers, who face a constant threat to existence because of tigers, have been demanding measures to prevent tigers from venturing out of the forest.

Political parties have also started to realise the issue.

Samajwadi Party candidate and former minister Bhagwat Saran Gangwar visited Bhole Ram's family members on April 11 and assured them of his support.

Gangwar raised the issue during the political rally held by party president Akhilesh Yadav in the district on April 12.

"People are being killed by wild animals. We will solve the problem once we come to power," he said.

Former Uttar Pradesh CM Yadav also raised the issue and attacked the BJP.

"Animals from the wild are killing people. I also saw a video of a tiger sitting on a wall being chased by people. This government has not done anything about the problem."

Umashankar Pal, a farmer who lost his brother to a tiger attack in 2022, said, "We want the authorities to put up a fence on the boundaries of the forest to stop the tigers. But nothing has been done yet. We continue to see tigers in our farms on a regular basis which poses a threat to our lives."

The villagers, predominantly farmers with small land holdings, cannot make do without their farms where the big cats are the biggest threat to their life.
Almost all the people killed by tigers met their fate in the fields.

Experts suggest that the population of tigers in the PTR, formed in 2014, has doubled over the years forcing them to venture out in search of new territories, thereby leading to man-animal conflict.

As per a survey conducted in 2018, the PTR has 65 tigers, more than double the number of tigers in 2014.

"Another reason that results in the animals coming out of forest areas is a very narrow and almost non-existent buffer zone around the PTR. Villages in Pilibhit or the fields are located just at the boundary of the forest," explained Durgesh Prajapati, a wildlife expert and social activist based in Pilibhit.

The villagers, who have lived in cohesion with the forest for ages, believe that the problem of tigers is a result of the government's decision to declare the area a tiger reserve.

The villagers said this time they will vote for the party which promises to resolve the issue for them.

Pilibhit, with over 18 lakh voters, will go to polls in the first phase of elections on April 19.

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Chandan Kumar in Pilibhit
Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Senjo M R© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
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