By Shreya Mittal
As two senior Indian ministers tussle over the declaration of some wild animals as “vermin”, the damage to crops from animal attacks declined 33 per cent over two years to 2012, according to an answer given to the Rajya Sabha in August 2014.
Crops damaged across India declined from 29,989 hectares in 2010 to 19,962 hectares in 2012, according to the government. Crops damaged in 2012 were 81 sq km, equivalent to an area roughly a fourth the size of Surat.
Bihar, one of five states that applied for permission after the environment ministry invited culling proposals in December 2015, reported four times more crop damage from wildlife incursions into farms over two years to 2012. There were no data available for the other four states that applied to cull animals.
Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, an animal lover, have taken opposing positions on the environment minister’s permission to cull some wild animals, including nilgai (an antelope), wild boar and monkeys.
The environment ministry is showing a “lust for killing animals”, Gandhi said on June 9, 2016. The environment ministry has allowed Himachal Pradesh to kill monkeys and Bihar, nilgai and wild boar, where they were in conflict with humans.
“The centre should have tried to explore other options instead of advising the states to shoot animals,” Gandhi said.
Bihar and Himachal Pradesh were among five states that responded to an environment ministry advisory asking states to list animals that destroy crops. Uttarakhand wants to cull wild boar, and Maharashtra and Gujarat both want to curb nilgais.
While proposals from Bihar, Uttarakhand and Himachal have been considered by the ministry, proposals from Maharashtra and Gujarat are under “active consideration”, according to a report in The Quint.
In Chhattisgarh, crops damaged by wild animals rose 13 per cent, from 11,828 hectares to 13,321 hectares in 2012.
In Kartaka, damage declined 75 per cent, from 7,572 hectares to 1,900 hectares in 2010-2012.
Bihar did not receive any compensation despite the increasing damage wild animals caused to crops. The compensation received by various states increased 17 per cent, from Rs 1.1 crore in 2010 to Rs 1.29 crore in 2012.
“Wild pigs and nilgais have been disturbing farmers for several years,” said Anish Andheria, president of the Wildlife Conservation Trust, an NGO. “So, states have started to filly give in to demands to cull animals on farmland and not in wildlife sanctuaries, tiol parks or forests.”
Andheria said killing “too many animals” can affect the food chain, since carnivores prey on nilgai and wild boar. If prey decline, carnivores could turn their attention to farm animals and humans, he said, suggesting that culling be done “under proper supervision and monitoring”.
(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest jourlism platform, with whom Shreya Mittal is an intern. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)