Kendrapara: While the lack of basic things like electricity and water are the poll planks in most areas, the issues are different in some villages of Rajnagar and Mahakalapada blocks, near the Bhitarkanika National Park (BNP).
The menace posed by wild boars is a major issue in Mahakalapada and the threat posed by crocodiles is a major issue in the villages of Rajnagar.
Around 30,000 riverside villagers near the BNP and its adjoining areas in the Rajnagar and Mahakalapada Assembly seats of Kendrapara district are facing a problem in deciding whom to vote for as all political parties have failed to check the wild boar and crocodile menace in their areas.
The wild boar menace exists in Lanjuda, Gugua, Suniti, Jamboo Panikhia Bhopal, Kaitala, Doligaon, Narasinghpur, Ratapanga, Tantiapala, Jagatjora, Batighar and other areas of Mahakalapada.
In Rajnagar block, the wild boar menace exists in Gupti, Rangani, Talachua, Iswarpur, Pravati, Rajendranarayanpur, Chinchiri, Kathuaganda, Gupti, Satabhaya, Barahipur, Osia, Palatunga, Ankua, Lalitapatia, Dangamal, Khola, Bhitarkanika, Kalibhanjadiha and other villages.
Wild boars are entering these villages regularly. Every year around half a dozen people, including women and the elderly, are attacked by boars and some of them become physically unfit to work.
Every year wild boars destroy thousands of acres of paddy. The issue has assumed alarming proportions of late as the animals are entering villages near the sanctuary and wreaking havoc.
Although the people here have urged the forest department, the district administration and local leaders to give compensation for crop damage, free treatment and livelihood to the injured nothing has been done, said Tapan Kamodia, a resident of Uttar Barakolikhola, who was injured in a boar attack.
“Local leaders and MLAs are shedding crocodile tears over the wild boar menace and not even a single candidate has provided any kind of protection to us,” said Asalata Koyel, 74, a woman of Ratapanga in Gogua GP of Mahakalapada, who was attacked by boars in 2016.
Similarly, the crocodile menace is going to be a major issue in the Rajnagar Assembly constituency.
The riverside villagers of Rajnagar said the crocodile menace has become the main poll issue in about 35 crocodile infested villages near BNP.
Many victims of crocodile attacks who managed to survive after getting injured have not got compensation from the forest department.
Locals said villagers of BNP depend on fishing in the rivers and creeks inside the park’s mangrove forests.
As the crocodile population has been increasing in the water bodies of BNP and as there is a shortage of fish in the rivers and creeks of BNP the crocodiles come to the drains, creeks and rivulets nearby in search of food and kill human beings and cattle, locals said.
The villagers have asked forest officials, the district administration and the elected representatives to check the problem, but the authorities have not provided compensation to families of all the dead, said Jagannath Das, a voter of Rajnagar.
Dolagobinda Jena, another local, said the water bodies inside BNP were now teeming with crocodiles and that riverside villagers are unable to use the river.
The reptile population has crossed saturation points, but forest officials are still releasing baby crocodiles from the breeding centre every year.
The BNP water bodies can hold around 400-500 crocodiles, but there are now 1,742 saltwater crocodiles in the area’s rivers and creeks. Due to lack of food and space the reptiles move far away from the park and kill human beings and cattle. The villagers in these areas rarely go outside their homes at night due to the crocodile threat.
During elections political leaders visit the villages and promise to control the crocodile menace, but after that all the promises are forgotten. The voters have now decided not to get hoodwinked by the promises of self-seeking candidates.
The people here have decided to vote only for those who will control the crocodile and wild boar menace, and secure compensation for those injured in animal attacks.