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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Villagers watch out for jumbos

Jamshedpur, Oct. 3: The forest department has pressed into service a task force of villagers to monitor the movement of migratory wild elephants in rural areas of Seraikela-Kharsawan and alert officials about rampaging herds on time.

The task force, formed mainly to keep track of elephants during the migration period from September to March, began functioning from yesterday in forest ranges under the Seraikela division, where the animals have killed six persons in the past two months, besides damaging acres of crops.

Divisional forest officer (DFO) of Seraikela A.T. Mishra said the task force was the first of its kind in Jharkhand.

He pointed out that the department had formed 15 clusters comprising five villages each. From each village, the department has picked two persons for the task force, thereby hiring altogether 150 people.

“The clusters of villages were identified after a survey of areas where the movement of elephants is frequent. Eight clusters have been set up in the Chandil forest range, besides four in Seraikela and three in Kharsawan,” said the DFO.

Members of the task force will essentially alert local residents and also pass on the information to the forest department as soon as they spot any elephant or herds straying into villages.

“We have a team of forest officials which will rush to the village for chasing away the elephants. But for this, timely information is a must, which is why the task force has been set up,” explained Mishra.

When asked, he said that each of the task force members would be paid a daily remuneration of Rs 120, to be borne by the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management Planning Authority.

Sudarshan Gope of Khejurda village in the district expressed hopes of getting much needed relief with the task force keeping vigil on wild elephants.

“We were fed up with the herds of wild elephants straying into our paddy fields frequently. But now I am hopeful that the initiative by the forest department will prevent elephants from damaging crops any further,” he told The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, sources in the department said that a herd, which had trampled a middle-aged farmer at Ramgarh village along NH-33 on Saturday, had moved to Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary the next day. But the elephants returned to jungle close to Ramgarh earlier this week, sources added.

During the migratory season, elephant herds tend to move between jungles and also damage houses and standing paddy crops.

The forest department has to pay Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the family of persons killed by elephants. It also compensates villagers for damages to houses and crops.