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Blue bull menace nags Mehsana Dalits Monday, September 17, 2001

MEHSANA: Over a hundred Dalit farmers in a hamlet of 4,500, 8 km from here tucked away in the foothills of the Arravalli ranges have been suffering silently, uncared for and unaided by the other sections of the village. Patels form 45 per cent of the population.

Having failed to get any response from forest officials 75 desperate Dalits of Berana wrote to the chief minister on August 13 threatening self-immolation if they were not rescued from the blue bull (neelgai) menace. They have been destroying their crops for the past five years.

The government's only response was to round up five signatories on September 4. Taken by surprise, the farmers were at their wits' end and could manage the release on bail after midnight.

One of them Dalabhai Premabhai Vankar said. "Will you please tell us what was our crime. It was adding an insult to injury." Others who were rounded up were Nareshbhai Bhavatbhai Parmar, Shymalbhai Jethabhai Vankar, Kalabhai Dudhabhai Vankar and Rambhai Kalabhai Vankar.

Over a hundred Dalit farmers whose 1,200 bighas of farmland come under the Arravalli foothillf have been struggling hard for survival against the blue bull menace for the past seven years.

They had collectively represented to the government 50 times. Some forest officials even visited the blue bull-infested fields, surveyed the area and prepared a Rs 21 lakh plan of wire fencing the entry points from the foothills.

The farmers were asked to bear half the cost. But the farmers could not afford more than 10 per cent share of the cost. "This meant the forest department did not realise our plight and poverty", said Naresh Parmar, a matriculate.

Sitting on a cot the 28-year-old Naresh was supervising the construction of a stable for buffaloes as an alternative as his 70 bighas did not yield enough to sustain a large family.

Before blue bulls' menace, the farmers earned enough to sustain themselves. But the blue bulls have ravaged their fortunes. Limbabhai Mabhi, squatting under a tree, sobbed like a child saying that in 10 bighas he could carry only 50 kg of maize home instead of the expected 450 kg.

The rest was devoured by the blue bulls. Karsanbhai Vankar had sowed groundnut in two bighas this year which was eaten away by the herbivores. Shamalbhai Vankar had sown cotton in 3.5 bighas of which two bighas were ravaged by these animals.

Naresh himself has reduced cultivation to five bighas out of 70 as this could be managed by shooing away the animals. Besides the threat of blue bulls the farmers had to contend with the increasing number of pigs left in the hills by Sardar Nihalsinh of Himatnagar two years ago. They had complained to the police against this additional hazard but in vain.

Naresh said that they had urged the forest department to translocate the animals. But they pressed for wire fencing their fields at a cost of seven lakh on 50-50 sharing.

News Source : Times News Network [India's best Newspaper]

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