While social distancing continues to be the need of the hour amid the COVID-19 pandemic, residents of Kinhi village in Beed district are forced to move about in groups to trap a leopard on the prowl in the area.
Over 100 forest personnel have been deployed in the area to trap the predator that has killed three persons, including a child, in the last 10 days, an official said.
Villagers are living in constant fear and are unable to do their routine work in fields, one of the residents told PTI.
The leopard had first killed a farmer in nearby Surdi village on November 24, which was followed by an attack on a 10-year-old boy in Kinhi three days later and a similar deadly attack on a woman in Pargaon on November 29.
The forest department has deployed over 100 personnel in this area to locate and trap the animal, the official said.
Teams have been called in from Aurangabad, Junnar, Pune and Amravati areas, he added.
According to local resident Gokul Narwade (28), the presence of the leopard has forced farmers to remain indoors.
"We are unable to water our crops because of the leopard and the labour force has also stayed away. This may lead to crop loss," he said.
People don't leave their homes without carrying sticks and irregular power supply has added to the woes, Narwade added.
Meanwhile, state president of the sarpanch council Datta Kakade said villagers don't leave their homes after 6 pm and youngsters in the village have been deployed with forest personnel to patrol the area.
"Gram panchayats of Ashti tehsil have come together and have urged the district collector to seek permission for killing the leopard or at least trapping it. We have also sought financial aid for families of persons killed by the animal," Kakade said.
Kinhi village sarpanch Rahul Kakade said, "We are facing three problems - coronavirus, leopard on prowl and electricity issues. People are unable to move out of villages, as the animal could be anywhere."
Officials from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) could not be reached for a comment on the power supply issue in the village.