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Spikes to fight jumbos

Borjora, Jan. 10: A Bankura shopkeeper has installed a spiked grill in front of the shutters to ward off elephants, sparking protests by villagers who fear the jumbos may run amok if they get injured.

Several residents of Borjora, a village frequented by elephants from the nearby forests, today lodged a complaint with the forest department, following which officials said the grocer would be asked to remove the grille immediately.

“This morning, we saw the spiked grille in front of the shutters of his grocery shop. We asked the shop owner about the need for such a grille. He said he did it to protect his shop from elephant attacks. We have urged him to remove the iron spikes because if an elephant gets injured, it might get furious and cause large-scale damage in the village,” said Sanjay De, a 30-year-old trader.

The grocer, Shantu Bid, said elephants had damaged his shop two years ago and he feared a herd that had destroyed barns and shops in a neighbouring village on Wednesday night could enter his village any day.

“Although I had got compensation from the forest department, I don’t want my shop attacked again,” the 40-year-old grocer said.

Forest officials said Bid could be charged under the Wildlife Protect Act, 1972, if an elephant died of infection after getting injured because of the spikes. “He could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined Rs 2 lakh,” a forest official said.

The officials said they would ask the shopkeeper to remove the grille. “Hungry elephants usually come to the villages after failing to get adequate food in the forests. An elephant may injure its legs, head or trunk if it tries to break the grille. I will ask the grocer to remove the spiked grille immediately,” said Sudhir Chandra Das, the divisional forest officer of Bankura.

Borjora is among a dozen villages on the fringes of dense forests that witness regular elephant attacks. The forest department has begun digging a 19km trench in the area to stop elephants from entering the villages.