Kendrapara, April 7: Man-animal conflict has become a major poll issue in villages lying close to the Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary.
The terror unleashed by estuarine crocodiles, wild boar and spotted deer, have left local residents angry as they feel politicians have failed to take up their cause.
To compound their woes, the forest department imposes several restrictions, including a ban on fishing for a specific period, that affected their livelihood.
A seven-month long restriction is imposed on sea-fishing to ensure the safety of Olive Ridley turtles is another burning issue that has taken centre stage as poll campaign is slowly picking up tempo in these backward villages which are part of Rajnagar and Mahakalpada Assembly constituencies.
Nearly one lakh people are affected due to wildlife and forest laws.
The decision of these villages, inhabited mostly by Bengali-speaking people, will be crucial for two coastal Assembly segments which are part of Kendrapara Lok Sabha constituencies.
In January this year, Akbar Ali Khan, 21, who worked on a trawler, was killed by security personnel for fishing in prohibited zone in mid sea. The incident had caused widespread anger and resentment in Rajnagar area. There have been frequent instances of crocodiles and wild boars attacking local people.
“We are undecided about our votes. In the past, political parties made promises. But nothing was done. No one is sensitive towards our plight. We will vote for the candidate who will ensure our safety and protection,” said a voter of Kansara-Badadandua village, Radhakant Manna.
“Crocodiles are on the prowl killing people and maiming many. Venture into any water body has become a risky proposition. Precious money is being spent from state exchequer for crocodile conservation every year. Nobody is bothered about the people living here. Even the compensation award for the bereaved families who lost their near and dears ones to crocodiles has not reached many” said a voter from Gupti village, who preferred to remain anonymous.
“Wild boars have also let loose a reign of terror in the area. In the past five years, many have been killed and injured. Crop fields have been destroyed by boars and the spotted deer. The forest department has not provided any compensation. On the other hand, criminal cases under forest and wildlife law have been slapped against innocent people,” said Gayadhar Dhal, a social activist.
“Political parties are shedding crocodile’s tears while crocodiles and boars have wrought havoc in our localities. The party that will pledge to put and end to our problems will receive our support,” said another villager.