These green fields in Chaukul village of Sawantwadi enclose a secret – a secret which has cost several farm animals their lives!
Tukaram Krishna Gavde, 51 year old farmer with a benign smile narrates his experience,
“You see those hoof-prints there? These are the latest ones in our series of endless confrontations with wild animals, for no fault of ours and theirs. During the day I work as a farmer and in the night you can find me wandering around this field. Wild animals from Sawantwadi, and a patch of forest nearby, regularly stray into our fields and destroy our crops. With the task of protecting our fields, we have to risk our lives, every second, each night. To guard 1.5 acres of my land, I cannot simply resort to killing these animals. You will find a lot of farmers with a torch and stick in their hands near the rice fields. Whenever an animal enters our field, we have several options in our hand which at times work and if they don’t work then we end up facing repercussions which include loss of life. The first step when an animal comes is flashing the torch. If it doesn’t work, then we start yelling hoping that the animal fears our voice and runs away. The next step is to burst firecrackers and most of the times animals run away after this. A lot of farmers keep phenyl near the field hoping that the foul smell creates a sense of fear in the mind of the wild animal. Farmers here don’t have guns and weapons, as it is illegal to kill wild animals, hence, we are left only with these options.”
These hoof-prints have now become common for the farmers as wild animals often enter the field and cause agricultural loss
There are several reports coming out of Sindhudurg talking about the destruction caused by wild animals. Some of the animals reported having attacked the fields include leopard, boars, bisons, local deer, civets, sambar deer, and hares.
Gavde says that wild animals use this pathway to stray into the fields
Locals complained that barely any compensation is received in the case of agricultural losses caused by wild animals. “The wildlife officials haven’t taken any action, the only time any action was taken was in the case of elephant attacks which is old,” added Gavde.
Compensation for agricultural losses remains a distant dream for farmers
Daily, farmers have to spend their night on an elevated structure- Machan or at times at perch in the farmland.
Machan has now become new home for the farmers of Chaukul as they spend their nights here guarding the fields
Major crop taken here is rice whose frequency remains twice a year. Meanwhile, Tukaram Gavde roams around with his stick in his shorts thinking about the spot where he should sit today to guard his field.
Gavde talks about the everyday lives of farmers amidst threat from wild animals