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Jumbos damage more than 50 quarters

- Garden workers say no foresters came to drive away the herd
A circus elephant being taken from Batasia in Darjeeling to Chanchal in Malda in a truck at Siliguri More in Raiganj on Tuesday. Picture by Nantu Dey

Siliguri, July 22: Two elephant herds of around 60 elephants entered Bamandanga-Tondu Tea Estate in Nagrakata block of Jalpaiguri early this morning and damaged more than 50 labour quarters and partially damaged the bungalows of the manager and assistant manager.

A boundary wall of the factory and a wall of the ration godown were also partially damaged. However, no one was injured.

According to a garden source, the elephant herds entered the tea estate from the adjoining Diana Forest and the Gorumara National Park.

“Around 3am, the elephant herds entered our estate. It was raining heavily and we could not realise that the animals had entered our quarters. However, as the elephants started ransacking our quarters, we could understand that many herds had entered the garden. We fled our homes with our families and took shelter in the garden factory,” said Kailash Gope, a garden worker.

It was later in the morning that the workers returned to their quarters, only to find that over 50 quarters, spread across seven labour colonies, had been completely damaged by the elephant herds.

Rajat Mahali, another worker of the estate, said the herds entered from different sides. “The herds entered from different directions, cordoned the estate and attacked our quarters,” said Mahali.

After damaging the quarters, some of the herd members also reached near the bungalows of management staff and the factory.

“The herd has damaged a boundary wall of the factory and a wall of the ration godown. Also, my bungalow and the assistant manager’s bungalow have been partially damaged. The elephants, after rampaging through the garden for over three hours, left around 6am. We have informed the forest department about the attack,” said Chandrashekhar Dubey, the manager of Bamandanga-Tondu.

A section of workers has blamed the forest department for not showing up despite repeated requests. “We had informed the forest officials immediately after the elephants had entered the garden. None of them, however, turned up to prevent the elephants from damaging our quarters and steer them back into the forest,” said a worker.

Forest officials in Jalpaiguri, said they lacked adequate staff.

“We lack enough staff members. Even then, we put in our best efforts and work round the clock to prevent elephant depredation. Our staff will inspect the affected quarters and in due course, appropriate compensation would be paid for the damage,” a senior forester said.