Written by Gagandeep Singh Dhillon | Shimla | Updated: June 8, 2020 10:08:08 pm
Nand Lal, the accused, told police he placed the explosive trap for wild boars and other animals that enter his fields, and the cow was an accidental victim. (File)
The recent incident of a cow getting critically injured after consuming explosive-laden dough in Bilaspur has brought to the fore the widely-prevalent practice of killing stray animals in the state to prevent them from damaging crops. On the night of May 25, a pregnant cow left free for grazing in Dahad village in Jhandutta chanced upon a flour dough ball in a shrub-covered area, which exploded in her mouth, injuring her severely.
Nand Lal, the accused, told police he placed the explosive trap for wild boars and other animals that enter his fields, and the cow was an accidental victim. On hearing the blast, he rushed to the spot but quickly retraced his steps on seeing the injured cow. However, the cow’s owners spotted him, which eventually led to his arrest.
The police said that Lal used a homemade bomb in the trap, using a mixture of ‘gandhak-potash’ (potassium nitrate and sulphur), crushed stones and other materials, before covering it with wheat dough. Besides the IPC, Lal has been booked under the Explosives Act and Prevention of Cruelty To Animals Act (PCA).
According to police and wildlife officials, this is the first reported case in Himachal Pradesh where such an explosive trap was used to injure an animal. “Even though we’ve never before received a written complaint to this effect, we have heard of it being used at some places in lower Himachal as a safeguard against animals, particularly wild boars. It happens in private agricultural property, and nobody cares to report it. Nevertheless, it’s an offence,” said a police official.
But farmers across the state use a range of methods – snares, poison, electric shock traps – to kill or maim animals such as monkeys, hares, jackals, porcupines, langurs, stray cattle and sometimes nilgai (blue bull) which stray into their fields.
“The widespread use of such cruel methods in Himachal is unfortunate. In areas such as Rohru and Jubbal, many cattle have been injured by snares. These devices are not just used for protecting the fields – they are used in poaching as well. For instance, jackals in Solan have been hunted using snares which trap their legs,” said Rajeshwar Singh Negi, national convener of Nature Watch India. He added that in cases such as the one in Bilaspur, stringent sections of the Explosives Act and PCA should be used against the culprits.
Dr Kuldip Singh Tanwar, president of HP Kisan Sabha and a former conservator of forests, said some animals have exceeded their habitats’ carrying capacity in several areas of the state, due to which farmers are forced to resort to killing them in “crude ways”. “The government should either translocate them, or deploy squads of trained shooters who cull them scientifically. Small, marginal farmers having a few bighas of land, are dependent on their seasonal cash crops. Their livelihood gets threatened when animals enter their fields, so they are forced to kill or injure them,” he said.
The Centre has declared rhesus macaques (monkeys) as ‘vermin’ in non-forest areas of 91 tehsils/sub-tehsils of the state and the municipal corporation limits of Shimla “to mitigate the damage to human life, crops and other properties”. This means they can be culled in these areas without attracting penalty under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Tanwar said farmers often resort to poisoning monkeys by semi-boiling corn grains, coating them with poison and then placing them at various spots outside their fields. In urban areas, people resort to practices like leaving out rat poison on slices of bread.
A sterilisation programme of monkeys is also underway in the state. Negi said there are more humane ways of controlling the population of monkeys and other animals and the protection of crops such as solar fencing, afforestation of fruit-bearing trees, rehabilitation, and effective sterilisation.
Surge in poaching
Forest officials also said that the lockdown period saw a surge in cases of poaching, such as the killing of a black bear in Rampur forest circle and that of wild boars in Hamirpur.
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