For the past eight years,standing crops of the three tehsils of Kannad,Gangapur,Vaijapur and some parts of Phulambri in Aurangabad district lay vulnerable,not only to drought and heavy rains,but also to deer herds.
The threat has become particularly severe over the past three years with the population of deer seeing a rapid spurt even as their natural habitation has dwindled. Now thousands of them roam around in groups of 30-40,damaging crops,in what is yet another case of man-animal conflict.
A good rainfall had raised hopes of a good cotton yield for young farmer Mangesh Aher,who had borrowed money to buy seeds. Recently,however,Mangeshs standing crop on a three-acre of land in Kannad was destroyed by a herd of deer in just one night.
Now we have built huts on our farms and take turns to keep a vigil, said Vishwas Aher,another farmer in Kannad. Deer have proved dangerous than drought, he added. Fences and scarecrows havent helped either.
The forest departments plan to translocate the animals to Karanja Sohal blackbuck sanctuary in Washim district of Vidarbha has run aground. Nor has the work to set up a deer sanctuary in Talwada Bhadli of Aurangabad seen any progress.
Dr Anna Shinde,former Zilla Parishad president and a progressive farmer at Kannad,said the deer first appeared in Dhandalgaon,Dahegaon and Parsoda villages of Vaijapur tehsil. Later,they entered the adjoining Kannad tehsil.
The deer werent a threat earlier . Some villagers would even worship them. In eight years,however,their population increased rapidly with no commensurate increase in their natural habitation. For more than three years now,they are attacking the farms and destroying the crops, Shinde added.
Deelip Yardi,member of Maharashtra Wildlife Board and honorary wildlife warden for Aurangabad district,said: There are about 10,000 deer,mostly blackbucks,in the region. As they fall under Category II of protected animals making their killing a serious offence,villagers do not dare to hurt them.
He cited various reasons for the significant growth in deer. The major cause behind it is the imbalance in the food cycle. The number of carnivorous animals in about 3,000 hectares of dense forests surrounding the tehsils has declined in the past decade. Cutting of trees and poaching are partly responsible for this.
The problem has been raised in the Assembly several times with the farmers also going on hunger strikes in support of relief for their losses.
Conservator of Forest,Aurangabad,B S Hooda,said the forest department distributed almost Rs 1.60 crore to farmers as compensation between 2005 and 2009 against the crop damaged by deer. However,farmers say that a total of 20,000 of them got a meager sum of Rs 50 to Rs 100 each,which they contend is peanuts when compared to the losses incurred.
Meanwhile,the project involving translocation of the deer to the Karanja Sohal blackbuck sanctuary stopped after shifting 231 of them. An expert team from Andhra Pradesh,too,had come to Aurangabad to train the local forest employees to catch deer. The scheme,however,did not progress beyond training about 100 employees and some villagers.
Additional Collector,Aurangabad,D M Muglikar said that forest officials have demanded to shift the rest of the deer and are awaiting a reply from the Wildlife Institute of India,Dehradun,which grants permission for the same.
The district administration had also proposed a blackbuck sanctuary at the Talwada Bhadli of Vaijapur tehsil at about 1,100 hectares of forest land. The proposal for the same has been submitted and has got partial sanctioning from the government, Muglikar added.