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regular-article-logo Monday, 24 June 2024

In this West Bengal Lok Sabha constituency, elephants are a poll issue

Jumbo herds come in search of food every year from October to March and incidents of man-elephant conflict occur, leading to deaths of people on some occasions

PTI Published 24.05.24, 12:25 PM

Telegraph file picture

Elephant attacks in villages causing loss of human lives and crops near forests in Barjora in West Bengal's Bishnupur Lok Sabha constituency are a recurring problem that the people want solved, along with demand for jobs and Awas Yojana houses, by their representative to be elected.

Jumbo herds come in search of food every year from October to March and incidents of man-elephant conflict occur, leading to deaths of people on some occasions.

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Kalipada Bauri (59) of Shyampur village was the last casualty of an elephant attack in March this year in the area, his son Chandan said.

Three people, including Bauri, died in as many elephant attacks in Bankura north division this year, a senior forest department official said.

Dwellers of Shyampur, Bansol, Dakaisini, Paboya and Kalpaini villages in the vicinity of forests say that the elephants, which sometimes come in herds of around 40, eat and destroy standing crops like paddy and damage houses in search of food.

Stating that he has received Rs five lakh as statutory compensation from the forest department, Chandan said he is still waiting for a final report from the police to apply for a contractual job that has been promised by the foresters.

Ruma Bauri and Champa Bauri of the same village in the Barjora assembly segment within the Bishnupur Lok Sabha constituency in Bankura district claim the villagers have raised the elephant attack problem to every political party leader who comes to seek their votes before the elections.

"Everyone promises to solve the elephant problem, but just forget about us after the polls are over," Ruma said.

Bipadtaran Roy of Bansol said that the pachyderm visits to villages increase in February-March.

"Elephants damaged a wall and roof of my house and ate several sacks of paddy stored inside. Now I am burdened with repairing the house as well as having to buy rice from the market," he told PTI.

Anil Dikpati, another resident of the area, said that two elephants came on a dark February night and damaged his house. He claimed that he scampered out of his modest corrugated-roof house along with his wife to save their lives.

"I complained to the forest department, but I have not received any compensation yet," Dikpati said.

Besides the elephants, the people of Bishnupur constituency face other problems.

While several villagers said that they have got houses under Awas Yojana, many others claimed that they were yet to get that benefit.

Chandan Bauri, who is married and has a little daughter, said that he works as a daily labourer.

"Since the land is not so fertile, just farming does not provide enough succour, but that too goes when elephants eat and destroy our crops," said Gopal Roy of Dakaisini.

His wife Kalpana lamented that the house they got under the Awas Yojana scheme, was damaged in an elephant attack a few months back.

"We don't have the money to properly repair the house," he said.

Admitting that pachyderm herd attack is a major problem in the area, CPI(M) candidate in Bishnupur constituency, Sital Koiborto, claimed that people in villages near the forests in Gangajalghati are "living in fear".

On the villagers' claim that the politicians do little to resolve the issue, he alleged that the sitting BJP MP Soumitra Khan has not done much as a parliamentarian to take care of the problem faced by the people.

Koiborto alleged that the forest department was also not doing much to alleviate the problems of the villagers.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Bankura (North), Umar Imam said the number of deaths in elephant attacks in the division was three in the last one year, the least in a decade.

He said that from the Durga Puja to the end of winter, during which elephants generally arrive in the area, there was a large herd in the Bankura North division.

"Our target is to ensure zero death and we are working towards that goal," Imam told PTI.

The DFO said that there is at present only one elephant which has been staying in the region for a long time.

"We have taken measures like guarding villages with energised fencing and round-the-clock surveillance with around 200 men and 10 vehicles during the season," he said.

The forest official also said men, who work on a temporary basis, are recruited from local villages.

Imam said that since the affected villages are at the edge of the forest, it is not possible to use energised fencing there and that many people are also dependent on forests.

He claimed that due to the measures taken, crop damage has also lessened in the area.

Imam said that elephant habitats with water bodies are being developed in the forests to keep the elephants away from localities.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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