A file picture of an elephant. The pachyderms are known for their love for alcohol
Alipurduar, July 28: An elephant trampled to death a man inside a Dooars tea estate adjacent to Buxa Tiger Reserve (East) last night. This is the fourth such incident in north Bengal in the past one week.
Foresters have linked the recent spate of elephant attacks to hadia (alcohol made from boiled rice) stored in labourers’ quarters.
Elephants are known for their fondness for liquor and the foresters believe that the animals are being attracted to human habitation by the smell of the locally brewed alcohol.
Edward Lakra (65), who was killed in Kartick Tea Estate in Samuktala yesterday, was allegedly drunk when the elephant attacked him.
“In Kartick, there is a small shop that sells hooch, mainly to the workers of the tea garden. We will ask the excise department to ensure that the shop closes down after sun set everyday, since elephants usually stray out of forests at night,” said L.G. Lepcha, the field director of the tiger reserve.
“Currently, the shops remain open till late at night and people get drunk there and return home around midnight. At that time, they are at the mercy of the elephants. Last night, for example, Edward was returning home in an intoxicated state and without a torch when the elephant attacked him,” the forest official added.
Apart from Edward, the three others killed by elephants in the past one week are Gangaram Sindur (50) of Phashkhawa Tea Estate on July 21, Rabin Sangma (28) of Garam Basti on July 23 and Bhab Younus Toppo (45) of Rydak Tea Estate on July 24. The animals have also damaged a lot of houses in these areas, all located on the fringes of Buxa Tiger Reserve.
Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Club, a Jalpaiguri-based NGO, agreed to the argument put forward by the foresters.
“Hadia and salt stored in the labourers’ quarters attract the animals. I think trade unions should come forward to talk to the workers and ask them not to keep hadia in their houses,” Bose said.
The forest officials have got in touch with trade union leaders. However, planters are not ready to accept the explanation.
“The real reason is that there has been an enormous increase in the number of wild elephants in north Bengal, while the forest area has not expanded accordingly. The forest department should immediately find a solution to this problem,” said Prabir Bhattacharjee, the secretary of the Dooars Branch of the Indian Tea Association.