An elephant herd entered Maharajghat village in Jalpaiguri district at least twice in the past 48 hours to damage the vegetables of farmers, including one whose teenage son was trampled to death last month by a wild elephant.
Residents of the village said that in the past two days, the herd of elephants damaged vegetables across 10 bighas of land.
The farms include that of Bishnu Das, who lost his son Arjun, a Madhyamik examinee, in an elephant attack on February 23. Das had been taking his son on a motorcycle to the exam centre through a Baikunthapur forest road as a short-cut when a wild elephant attacked them. Arjun died in the attack.
In the past couple of days, a herd of 15-16 elephants entered the village from the nearby Baikunthapur forest and damaged farms where vegetables were ready for harvest.
Das, who had cultivated ridge gourd and bitter gourd, lost almost his entire produce owing to the rampage of the elephant herd.
“I had spent around Rs 80,000 and cultivated ridge gourd on a two-bigha plot. I was supposed to earn around Rs 1.5 lakh. The elephants completely damaged the crop on Wednesday night. Also, another bigha of my land, where bitter gourd was ready for harvest, has nothing left on it now,” said Arjun’s father.
“Usually, we cultivate vegetables in this village,” said Ananta Roy, another farmer who has lost his crops of bitter gourd and chilli. “This time, a number of farmers like Arjun’s father and I have lost their entire produce in the elephant attacks. We did inform the forest department. But usually what happens is that before the teams of foresters can come, the elephants do the damage and leave,” Roy added.
Senior forest officers, when contacted, said they always acted on information and tried to reach locations to steer elephants from human habitats back into forests.
“There is also a provision for compensation when a farmer loses his crop in an elephant attack. These farmers can file applications for compensation with the necessary documents,” said Hari Krishnan, the divisional forest officer of Baikunthapur forest division.