Unemployed mason killed in Sunderban tiger attack
A mason in his 40s who lost his job during the lockdown was mauled by a tiger in the Sunderbans when he ventured deep into the forest to catch crabs for a living.
Haripada Mandal had set out on a small boat with several others from the Bali 2 area in Gosaba block near Pirkhali in the Sunderban Tiger Reserve early on Wednesday, a forest official said.
The tiger attacked him from behind inside the forest where he had gone to catch fish and crabs, the official
The lockdown and Cyclone Amphan, which has left most fields and ponds inundated with saline water, have resulted in loss of livelihood for many people, according to foresters and people working for the welfare of those living in the Sunderbans. Even inexperienced groups have been venturing out in the forests in search of a living, an official said.
His relatives have said Mandal used to work in Calcutta and adjoining areas. He had returned to the village as it was difficult to get work in the city once the lockdown started, a forest official said.
Embankments in the Sunderbans delta — a Unesco World Heritage site — breached as the surge caused up by the cyclone flooded several kilometres of the islands.
“Many migrant workers have returned to their villages after losing their usual means of livelihood during the lockdown. Several have fallen back on the forest and have taken to catching crabs and fish in order to make ends meet,” Sagnik Sengupta, a member of Stripes And Green Earth (SAGE), an NGO, said.
Members of the NGO had visited several ranges in the Sunderbans, including the Pirkhali forest area, to distribute relief materials in the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.
Another forest official said the men had cast their nets in a shallow creek that flows through the Pirkhali
The tiger attacked Mandal from behind and before the other men on the boat could realise what was happening, the animal had dragged him away. The tiger tried to drag him deeper into the forest when at least three men managed to hit it with axes and sticks.
“They hit the tiger with sticks and after a few minutes the animal let go of Mandal’s neck,” the official said.
Rajib Banerjee, the state’s forest minister, said the men had ventured deep into the forest when the tiger attacked them.
“The men told our officials that they had gone to catch fish when the tiger attacked one of them,” Banerjee said.
The group could not produce a fishing permit, a forest official said. “Their boat was moored inside the forest where they were not supposed to be,” the official said.
The big cat count in the Sunderbans is close to 100 according to the latest Census.