Maharashtra forms panel to examine man-animal conflicts

By Quaid Najmi Mumbai, Feb 28 (IANS) Finally waking up to the growing instances of man-animal conflict in Maharashtra, the state government has set up a Special Committee to enact a law to provide proper compensation to the victims, besides ensuring conservation and safety of animals in the wild, a top official said.

The Special Committee will examine the severe impact on farmers and farm workers due to the terror of wild animals in civilian areas adjoining forests and submit its recommendations to frame a regulatory mechanism and a suitable law.

The proposal for having a regulatory mechanism and bringing a law for payment of suitable compensation to the farmers and farm labourers has been under discussion after tigress Avni (T1) was shot in Yavatmal on November 2, 2018.

“Following the Supreme Court orders, the decision to capture or to eliminate Avni (T1) tigress came after she allegedly killed 13 villagers in and around her prowl area in the Pandharkawada forests of the district. There are many similar instances across Maharashtra and the rest of India,” the Special Committee’s Coordinating Member, Vinod Tiwari, who pushed the idea, told IANS.

He is also the Member-Law of the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority (MWRRA) and a well-known political-legal activist.

On January 25, a leopard created mayhem in Nashik’s thickly populated Gangapur locality and injured at least four persons before it was captured and released into the forests.
Even a concrete jungle like Mumbai has regularly witnessed conflicts with leopards from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). On February 20, a leopard spent half-a-day in a mall in Thane before it was captured.

“Presently, the economic losses accrued due to the direct-indirect ‘terror attacks’ by wild creatures on humans and their properties has been treated casually with no proper regulatory mechanism to assess and award compensation, medicare or rehabilitation of the victims, besides ensuring there are no repeat incidents,” Tiwari explained.

The Committee will study laws worldwide. At the Yellowstone National Park in the US, the world’s first official national park, compensation to farmers and locals proved to be a successful conservation policy against attacks by wolves. The challenges in India are very different, said Tiwari.

“As the conflicts increase, there is growing animosity among humans here when wild creatures enter civilian habitats and the animals, once perceived to be a part of nature, are now perceived as ‘property of the forests’ and a threat to people,” said Tiwari.

Citing official records, Tiwari said that between 2009-2015, hardly 0.1-8.0 per cent of the affected farmers received some form of compensation, though it is perceived that at least 90 per cent of the farmers in the buffer zones suffered some or other type of losses.

“The aim is to finalise and submit the report recommending attractive compensation-cum-rehabilitation package policy, create a proper mechanism to assess and quantify the actual short-term and long-term damages, besides taking care that conservation efforts are not hampered in any manner,” Tiwari said.

(Quaid Najmi can be reached at [email protected])
–IANS
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