‘Tiger widows’ of Sundarbans have demanded a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to be given to each family of fishermen killed in tiger or crocodile attacks. They also urged the state government to provide a pension of Rs 3,000 per month to each ‘tiger widow’, free treatment to fishermen who had been injured in attacks and death certificates to those, against whom no charges had been pressed by policemen or forest officials.
“Even the families of those who died after consuming spurious liquor get Rs 2.5 lakh as compensation. Our husbands have died to earn a livelihood in the forest. Many a time, they venture into risky territories and get attacked by tigers. We also deserve compensation. The government should provide for each of the affected family,” said Geeta Mirdha, a tiger widow at a seminar in Kolkata.
In a first, NGO ActionAid along with its partners brought a team of 20 ‘tiger widows’ from Gosaba in Sundarban to Kolkata to share their plight with members of the civil society to commemorate the International Widow Day, observed on June 23 every year.
Kaushalya Mandal, a mother of two, whose fisherman husband died following a tiger attack in 2010, said, “Many women in the village are not too familiar with the outside world, since we had been dependent on our husbands all along. I have gone to every government office possible, but not one officer was willing to help. All we want is a life of dignity and a way of income.”
The NGO said that in Sundarbans, over 3,000 women, whose husbands were killed by tigers and crocodiles while fishing and collecting honey to earn their traditional livelihood in the forest, are living in poor condition. These women are called ‘tiger widows’. Thousands of fishermen are traditionally engaged in sustainable fishing to maintain their livelihood.
According to the members of the NGO ActionAid, the government has taken several unilateral conservation measures in the name of core area, wild life sanctuary, national park and reserved forests from time to time. These steps have prohibited the local residents to continue with their sustainable livelihood.
They added that most of the fishermen are forced to tread into restricted areas to sustain themselves and feed their families. They are subjected to harassment, threats and atrocities of the forest department. When they are attacked by wild animals, their deaths become ‘illegal’ and their families don’t receive any government aid.