The ‘vote-eating’ Corbett leopards | India News

The ‘vote-eating’ Corbett leopards | India News

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In the tranquil landscapes of Uttarakhand’s Nainital and Pauri districts, villagers on the fringes of Corbett Tiger Reserve are grappling with the toll of human-animal conflict.
In Garhwal (Pauri Garhwal) and Nainital-Udham Singh Nagar, the two LS seats that vote on April 19, one of the biggest issues is big cat-human conflict. BJP won both seats in 2019. As polls approach again, voters confront a choice: boycott or ballot? While some mull a boycott, others say they will opt for the ‘None Of The Above (NOTA)’ option.
The frustration has deepened because of a perceived lack of govt intervention.“Villagers are in no mood to cast their vote or pick any candidate. Neither our MP nor any MLA has paid heed to our ordeal,” lamented Lalit Upreti, convener of Sanyukt Sangharsh Committee, which has spearheaded protests.

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In the last 10 years, 264 human lives were claimed by big cats in Uttarakhand — leopards claimed 203 and tigers 61. Wildlife attacks have disrupted daily life, prompting school closures and sparking protests in villages like Sawaldeh, Patrani, Dhela and Pauri.
The discontent is not new. Wildlife attacks have impacted elections in the region. In 2022, villagers in Tehri boycotted assembly polls. Similar action was taken during the 2014 LS polls in Pauri.
Villages face the imminent threat of being vacated, prompting them to appeal even to the CM. Some advocate revising the Wildlife Protection Act, questioning the endangered status of big cats, given their populations in Uttarakhand. But environmental experts warn against such measures.
The state govt established the country’s first human-wildlife conflict-mitigating cell, allocated special funds to compensate affected families, and introduced a helpline number. But the situation remains precarious. Devender Rawat, the husband of the gram pradhan of Pasar village, said: “We have limited outdoor activities postsunset, and avoid solitary movement. But there’s an urgent need for further action.” Pasar residents had boycotted polls in 2022.
Recently, the state govt hiked compensation from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 6 lakh for families of wildlife attack victims. “Farmers facing loss of local cattle varieties will now get compensation,” chief wildlife warden Samir Sinha said, adding, “Existing central compensation is Rs 4 lakh for casualties due to wildlife attacks. Now, the state will add Rs 2 lakh. Even if Centre hikes the amount, we will continue to contribute an additional Rs 2 lakh.”

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