Cotton picking has become the most dreaded livelihood option for the inhabitants of about 100 villages/hamlets abutting forest areas in the Kagaznagar division.
Fatal tiger attacks in quick succession in Digada tribal hamlet of Dahegaon mandal, and later in Manneguda hamlet in Penchikalpet mandal from the Kumram Bheem Asifabad district, have kept the agricultural labourers, especially women, off the cotton fields for some time. But later, they had to venture out as they could not afford to stay home for long.
Three weeks after the first attack, and a week after the second, the Forest officials are clueless about the identity of the big cat which is resorting to the desperate assaults on humans. Meanwhile, several villagers have informed the authorities that they had heard a tiger roar in the vicinity.
In view of the circumstances, a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued by the Forest officials to the villagers, to be followed when they move outside their homes.
As per the SOP, the villagers should avoid leaving strip gaps or pathways in agricultural fields, which means crops should be closely planted for 10 rows on the periphery without leaving any pathways.
The villagers are asked to avoid using routes passing through forest areas, and when going to the fields for harvesting or other operations, they should move in the groups of minimum of eight to 10 people. One person in the group should be deployed as sentry, whose duty it is to beat drum or whistle to scare the animals.
People working in the field and also shepherds have been asked to wear face mask on the backside of the head to deter the tiger. Shepherds have also been asked not to take the cattle deep inside the forest for grazing, and instead, stay within half kilometre from the village. They should ensure departure after 9 a.m. and return by 4 p.m.
Farmers should stay on machans while guarding the crop, and every villager venturing into the field will have to wield a stick with small bell tied to it.
Village protection committees have been constituted with sarpanch as chairperson, and the Forest Beat Officer as Convenor.
“The Forest Beat Officers are coordinating with the village sarpanches, to get the list of labourers who are going for cotton harvesting every day. The sarpanch has to ensure that one person stands guard while others are picking the cotton. Our beat officers are also taking volunteers inside the forest to track the tiger,” an official informed.
The department has distributed masks for the villagers, and will sponsor drums and whistles too, he said.