| In harmony
Jorhat, Jan. 25: Man and animal may yet learn to live in peace if a programme to train tea garden workers on how to deal with wild animals bears fruit.
The Indian Institute of Plantation Management (IIPM) has tied up with the Assam forest department to train tea workers to deal with wild animals like leopards and elephants, which are in constant conflict with the labour community.
The Jorhat centre coordinator of IIPM, Rangan Bhuyan, told this correspondent that the institute proposed to carry out the awareness drive among garden workers in view of the rising incidence of man-animal conflict in tea estates.
The increasing man-animal conflict has affected work in several estates as workers fear to venture out to the gardens with wild animals around.
Bhuyan said the conflicts were increasing because of depredation by elephants and frequent straying of leopards in the estate areas, resulting in killing of livestock and attack on labourers, who at times panic and react violently and kill the big cats.
“Both elephants and leopards have caused disturbance in a large number of tea gardens and disrupted work for long hours or for days with workers fearing to go out to work. So, we have decided to conduct a two-day sensitisation meet among the chowkidars and sardars of estates, who supervise the labourers and know the garden topography very well,” Bhuyan said.
He said senior officials and other staff of the forest department would spread awareness among and train the tea workers, who would converge from several estates to a particular garden.
The drive will soon be launched in the member estates of the Assam Branch of Indian Tea Association (Abita), he added.
Bhuyan said the campaign would be funded under a Tea Board project named Grassroot Workforce Governance and Management. The project aims to develop the skills of the labour force of the gardens and work for their welfare.
He said the garden executives of Jorhat and Golaghat districts and forest department officials had discussed the issue in November last year.
Divisional forest officer (Jorhat) N.K. Malakar said the forest department would provide tips on how to minimise the man-elephant conflict by providing the field staff, especially the supervisors, in the gardens with some dos and don’ts. He said chowkidars and sardars would be asked to cooperate with the forest staff by providing information on the possible routes through which animals like elephants enter the estates to prevent their entry.
The DFO said the field staff would be asked to inform the forest staff, police or garden authority immediately if a leopard or an elephant or a herd is spotted inside the garden. They would be asked to keep the situation under control by not allowing the workers to retaliate against the animal. Instead, they would allow the forest staff to deal with the situation.
“In many situations, the workers panic and provoke wild animals, following which the animals attack humans with at times proves fatal. This in turn leads to people killing the animals. In the process, humans can get injured or die,” he added.
The secretary of Jorhat-based Abita (zone II), Abhijit Sharma, said the industry welcomed the initiative and hoped that the drive would address the problem effectively.