Rajnagar/Mahakalpara, Apr 16:
Reported by Vishwanath Kumar
The continuing man-animal conflict has been a major poll issue in villages under the Rajnagar and Mahakalpara constituencies that lie close to the Bhitarkanika wildlife sanctuary in Odisha’s Kendrapara district and is likely to play a crucial role in deciding the victors
Hit by the terror unleashed by estuarine crocodiles, wild boar and spotted deer, the local people are a peeved lot as politicians have done precious little to mitigate their plight, while shedding ‘crocodile tears’.
Adding to their woes is the national park, wildlife sanctuary and prohibitory measures that have severely depleted their livelihood stakes and options.
Seven-month long ban on sea-fishing to ensure the safety of Olive Ridley turtles is another burning issue that has taken the centre-stage during the poll campaign in these perennially backward villages.
Rajnagar and Mahakalpada assembly constituencies account for an estimated 1 lakh people who are being affected by wildlife and forest laws hold the key in deciding the final outcome of the polls.
“We are still undecided on whom to vote. In the past, promises have been made only to be broken. Nobody is sensitive to our suffering. We will vote for the candidate who would ensure our safety and protection”, said a voter of Kansara-badadandua village, Radhakant Manna.
Crocodiles are on the prowl, killing the people at will and maiming many. To venture into any water-body has become a risky proposition. Precious money is being spent from state exchequer for crocodile conservation every year. But nobody is bothered about the larger interest of people living here. Even the compensation award for the bereaved families, who lost their near and dears ones to marauding crocs, has not reached many, charged a cross-section of voters from Gupti village.
The predatory wild boars have also let loose a reign of terror in the region. People have been killed and injured over the past five years. The crops have been eaten away or damaged badly by intruding boars and spotted deer. The forest department has so far shied away from compensating the affected people.
On the other hand, criminal cases under forest and wildlife laws have been slapped against innocent people, alleged a local activist Gayadhar Dhal.
People here are angry about these daily issues and that would be translated into negative votes, he predicted.
People here believe the political parties are only shedding crocodile tears.
‘Any party which pledges to put to and to our daily misery will receive our support’, remarked a local person.