For more than a decade, it has been legal for farmers in Madhya Pradesh to kill a nilgai by seeking permission from district authorities by citing continual damage to their standing crops.
But given that ‘gai’, meaning a cow, is part of the antelope’s name and invokes religious sentiments, only one farmer sought permission in the past 12 years. That too was rejected by a sub-divisional magistrate on the ground that the farmer was eligible for compensation to the standing crop.
The state may have finally found an answer to the menace — changing the antelope’s name to ‘rojad’ in its rules.
Legislators reached a consensus on the Assembly floor on Monday while discussing a question related to wildlife census.
While expressing satisfaction with the written reply, BJP MLA Jitendra Gehlot wanted to know from Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar if he had any plan to check the number of nilgais in Ratlam, Mandsaur and Neemuch districts where they destroy crops.
“The word nilgai is troublesome. Some people call it ‘rojad’, some ‘roj’,” he said, adding that SDMs can permit its killing but farmers have shown no interest.
Deputy Speaker Rajendra Singh, who was in the Chair, suggested to the minister to rename the animal. The minister replied by saying that colloquial words, like ‘rojad’, were not mentioned in official books and people shied away from seeking permission to kill the animal because the rulebook calls it nilgai.
Rajendra Pandey, another BJP MLA from Jaora in Ratlam district, wondered if a sanctuary could be created to house the antelopes from different areas after sedating them. One more legislator seconded the idea by citing the existing cow sanctuary set up by the BJP government in the state.
The Deputy Speaker told the House that a consensus on renaming the antelope had been reached.
PCCF Narendra Kumar told The Indian Express the ‘rojad’ name would soon be included in rulebooks. He said farmers did not seek permission to kill the antelope because ‘gai’ was part of its name. The name ‘gai’ was precisely the reason why the forest department’s idea of allowing regulated hunting of the antelope did not take off.
In 2011, then forest minister Sartaj Singh had floated a proposal to issue temporary licences to hunters and charge them Rs 5,000 for every nilgai (blue bull) they kill. The forest department was to issue a list of blocks where the animal proliferated, and allow hunting during daytime with a forest department employee accompanying the licence holder to avoid its possible its misuse.