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Iron spikes to ward off jumbos

The shutters of the Bankura shop with the spiked grille; some of the 19 elephants in the Borjora forests(below). Pictures by Santosh Kumar Mandol

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

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

“This morning, we saw the spiked grille installed in front of rolling shutters of his grocery shop. We asked the shop owner about the need to install such a grille. He said he did it to keep away elephants from his shop. We have urged him to remove the iron spikes because if a tusker 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 that a herd of animals that had destroyed property and shops in a neighbouring pocket on Wednesday night could come to his village any day.

“Only two days ago, a herd of elephants entered a neighbouring village and destroyed seven shops and barns on Wednesday night. I fear they might enter our village soon and destroy my shop. My grocery was damaged two years ago. Although I got compensation from the forest department, I don’t want my shop to be attacked again,” the 40-year-old grocer said.

Forest officials said Bid could be charged under the Wildlife Protect Act of 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.

Borjora is among a dozen villages on the fringes of the forests in Bankura that bear the brunt of elephant attacks. Repeated destruction of property and crops has prompted the forest department to build a 19km long trench to steer away elephants.

However, the timely completion of the project taken up in November is under cloud in the absence of adequate labour. While the men in the villages prefer working in the illegal coal mines for Rs 400 a day, much higher than the Rs 151 a day they would get digging earth for the trench, women are employed by farmers to stock paddy in the barns.

According to forest department officials, at least 19 resident elephants are already living in the Borjora forest range and a fresh herd of around 100 elephants has infiltrated from the Dalma Hills in Jharkhand last month and is moving towards the Borjora range.

The forest officials today said they would ask the shopkeeper to remove the iron spiked grille.

“The 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. This can make the elephant more furious and it can go berserk. I will ask the grocer to remove the spiked grille immediately,” said Sudhir Chandra Das, the divisional forest officer of Bankura.