The forest department on Friday introduced a slew of measures for the protection of Madhyamik examinees from wild elephants in north Bengal and they included the arrangement of transportation for students, deployment of tactical vehicles to ward off animals and intensified patrolling.
The measures which were launched near elephant habitats in the districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar would be made available during higher secondary and madarsa examinations also, said the forest department.
Rajganj MLA Khageswar Roy and administrative and police officials at the residence of Arjun Das on Friday. Biplab Basak
The initiatives were taken a day after Arjun Das, who was on the way to a Madhyamik centre, had been trampled to death by an elephant in the Jalpaiguri district. The 15-year-old boy was pillion-riding with his father Bishnupada when the elephant attacked them. The father-son duo were taking a shortcut road through the Baikunthapur forest. Bishnupada managed to escape with minor injuries.
After the incident, chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressed her concern and instructed the forest department to take appropriate steps for the safe journey of the Class X examinees living near elephant habitats.
Accordingly, Vivek Kumar, additional chief secretary of the department, issued an order, and foresters across these three districts took the task to implement it.
“A list of around 300 localities and routes where there is a chance of elephant attacks was prepared. A plan was drawn to confirm that around 2,000 examinees, who live in such areas, are provided with transport and escort. The service started today. We will provide similar services during higher secondary and madrasah examinations,” said Ujjwal Ghosh, the additional principal chief conservator of forests (north).
The administration and the police are helping them in the exercise, he said.
“We have also intensified vigil along the elephant habitats and monitoring the movement of elephant herds,” said the senior forester.
In Jalpaiguri, sources said, foresters today provided transport to examinees living in 41 different locations which are close to elephant corridors and reserve forests.
Today morning, a team of foresters also reached Maharajghat, Arjun’s village in Rajganj block of Jalpaiguri. There, they made public announcements, asking people to refrain from using forest roads.
“We provided three SUVs and the district administration has provided two buses to transport students to their respective examination centres. Two camps have been set up at Maharajghat and Millanpally (a neighbouring locality) and 16 guards have been posted in each camp. An ‘Airavat’ has been placed in Takimari (an adjoining area) to drive away elephant herds,” said a forest officer.
Like Jalpaiguri, foresters also made transport arrangements for examinees, who live near elephant habitats of Siliguri sub-division and Alipurduar district.
The Bagdoga forest range of the Kurseong forest division arranged vehicles.
In Alipurduar, examinees were seen traveling in vehicles from villages located near the Buxa Tiger Reserve and Jaldapara National Park.
“We engaged 90 employees and 22 vehicles. Twenty-nine 29 shortcut routes through the forests have been blocked. Today, we carried 710 students from 43 villages,” said a forester in Alipurduar.
Later in the day, Khageswar Roy, the local MLA of Rajganj, reached Arjun’s house with Moumita Godara Basu, the DM of Jalpaiguri, Akhilesh Chaturvedi, the commissioner of Siliguri Metropolitan Police and some others.
They handed over a cheque for Rs five lakh to the boy’s father.
Additional reporting by our Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar correspondents