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Elephant herd at Andal door

Durgapur, Nov. 29: A herd of 55 elephants, including 10 tuskers and three calves, has entered Burdwan’s thickly-populated Andal block after rampaging through parts of Bankura district over the past three days.

About 1,000 villagers of Durga Mana, Char Mana and Keshabpur Mana villages on the Bankura-Burdwan border are spending sleepless nights, fearing elephant raids. They are keeping a strict vigil at night and burning torches and bursting fire-crackers to save their crops and houses. Most of the women and children from the settlements have been sent to safety in North Bazar and Sreerampur in Andal.

Officials said over 35 families from the border had moved to the Sreerampur Primary School by 10 pm yesterday.

Last night, about 10 to 15 elephants tried to enter Sreerampur and North Bazar. A police contingent rushed to the area, but could only stand by and watch as the herd left a trail of damaged houses and ravaged fields of paddy and sugarcane in its wake. Villagers and forest officials finally succeeded in driving the pachyderms back to forests in Bankura.

It is reported that the elephants have split into three groups and are trying to progress towards Ranigunj, Andal and Durgapur in Burdwan, sending district officials into a tizzy.

“The elephants came to the Goaltore jungles in Midnapore district from the Dalma range in Jharkhand before Durga Puja. As in the previous year, the elephants have chosen the same route to enter the Bankura villages…. They are trying to go to jungles in Birbhum,” said B.K. Sood, divisional forest officer (Bankura North).

The villagers complained that forest officials were doing little to resist the rampaging elephants. “Last night, we tried to prevent the elephants from entering our village but failed as none of the forest officials or members of the resistance party helped us. They damaged our house at Durga Mana,” said Swapan Maiti.

“It is not possible for us to tackle a herd of 55 elephants with the existing infrastructure,” admitted a forest official of Bankura.

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