A bitter battle over the right to fish in a local lake seems to have led to massive poisoning of fishes in a village in the western region of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Saturday proved a calamitous wakeup call for the residents of Paruthipalli village near Namakkal, otherwise known as the poultry capital of the state.
Villagers found thousands of fully-grown fresh water fish of different species floating lifeless in the sprawling Amirthasagaram Lake.
It is a huge economic blow for them, and they suspect someone should have mixed urea, a commonly available fertilizer, with the lake waters.
An initial estimate put the loss of fish at a staggering 40 tonnes, worth lakhs of rupees.
The lake, which has a water spread of nearly 340 acres, had received copious water from rain last year. Some six months ago, the right to catch fish was given on auction to a fishermen's society which, according to villagers, had sub-leased it to a few locals.
But Paruthipalli village panchayat (grassroots administrative body) objected to the auction demanding that fishing rights of the village lake be given to the panchayat itself.
They also pointed out that the state High Court had also suggested that the village panchayat be given priority in such matters. The district administration too gave in.
It was against this backdrop that the fish in the lake were found dead. A complaint has now been lodged with the police, alleging that the water in the lake could have been poisoned.
Government officials who rushed to the spot had a tough time pacifying the agitated the villagers who would not allow officials to remove the dead fish from the lake, but insisted that the culprits be arrested first.
Samples of water and the dead fish have been collected and sent to a laboratory nearby.
An official said any action could be initiated only after the receipt of the test reports from the laboratory.