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Elephants have a meal
The students look at the wreckage of their school after the elephant attack. Picture by Anirban Choudhury

Patkapara Tea Estate (Alipurduar), Nov. 29: After unscrupulous suppliers and careless teachers, it is the turn of wild elephants to wreak havoc with the mid-day meal for schoolchildren.

A tusker and a makhna (elephant without tusks) barged into Patkapara Junior Basic School here around 2 am today and ate the foodgrain and other edibles stored in the office for mid-day meals. The animals also destroyed the office and a classroom.

As a result, classes, along with the mid-day meals, will remain suspended indefinitely, affecting the more than 200 students of the school.

Patkapara Tea Estate is located 16 km from Alipurduar town. The elephants, which had strayed from Buxa Tiger Reserve, consumed 500 kg of rice, 30 eggs, along with mustard oil, said Nirmal Kanti Roy, the teacher-in-charge of the school. “The animals also destroyed the office, damaging furniture as well as important papers,” Roy added.

Finally, villagers wielding searchlights and bursting crackers drove the animals back into the reserve.

“This area is constantly under attack from wild elephants, but forest staff do not take any action,” said Roy. “Last year, the animals damaged Phoshkadanga Shishu Shiksha Kendra nearby where classes are still being held under open skies.”

The management of Patkapara Tea Estate is equally annoyed with the forest department. The manager of the garden, Ashoke Sen, said: “Every night, the workers are busy tackling wild elephants and as a result most of them remain absent from work the following day, which is a real problem. The animals damage new plantations, thatched houses and culverts and we have to spend a lot of money in repairs. I will meet officials of Buxa Tiger Reserve today, asking them to set up a temporary camp at the tea estate.”

The field director of the reserve, L.G. Lepcha, said: “We will intensify patrolling in that area from tonight. If there is such a demand, we will set up a camp in the garden.”

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