Due to climate change, fish and crabs are unavailable in human-habitat areas, forcing people to enter core zones.
New Delhi: The core islands of Sundarbans have unforgettable tales of man-eaters. However, the wives of tiger attack survivors often struggle immensely to support their families. The Sunday Guardian explored the stories of wives of tiger attack survivors, who are now overburdened with medical bills of their husbands. Due to drastic climate changes, fish and crabs are unavailable in the human-habitat areas and people are often forced to enter core zones of Sunderbans and become a victim of tiger attack and some lose their lives.
Saraswati Mondal is the wife of a tiger attack survivor Asit Mondal. Asit, 63, is a resident of Shantigachi village in Sundarban. Seventeen years ago, he was attacked by a man-eater of Sundarban and is still facing multiple health problems. Moreover, Asit is dependent on his wife and his son is not allowed to do any heavy tasks. Saraswati, while recalling her life 17 years ago, told this paper, “I used to do multiple jobs to support my husband and my children. My son was seven years old and my daughter was 15. Even my children had to leave their education and they started doing odd jobs to support us. With a sum of only Rs 2,500 per month, we managed our livelihood.” She admits that her husband went to tiger zones, which are strictly prohibited by the officials, to catch some crabs and fish. Asked why they went to the tiger zones without permission, she said, “We do what it takes to survive.”
Since then, the life of Saraswati was never easy. Her daughter got married early as the family was forced by other villagers. The family has received a house from the government and small land. Now his son is 21 and is managing the family. Similarly, Tapasi Sardar, the wife of Sudarshan Sardar, is a resident of Gosaba village in Sundarban. Around 5-6 years ago, Sudarshan went to the tiger zone of Sundarban and was attacked by a man-eater while his brothers were away. However, he, along with his friends, helped him to get away from the clutches of the tiger and he was immediately rushed to a local hospital, Chittaranjan. He was admitted to the hospital for more than a month and till now, he hasn’t recovered fully. He is dependent on his family and friends for money. He is still undergoing treatment and is not allowed to do any heavy tasks.
Tapasi said, “I work at the houses of other people and manage to earn Rs 2,000-3,000 per month. My friends and extended family help our family financially. Sometimes, other well-off families of the village provide us with food and clothes.” Her son studies in Class 4 and manages his books and other study materials from his friends and teachers. Recalling her life before her husband became a tiger-attack survivor, she said, “My life was better, he used to look after us and we managed to bring more money but now he can’t work and I need to take care of everything. Now, we are mostly dependent on other family members.” People like Umashankar, a resident and a social worker in Satjelia, Sundarban, told this paper, “We try to help them with money but we have our limitations. We can’t provide them with all the money, but we definitely distribute food and clothes to them. This is a small help.”