WILDLIFE WATCH: Night jumbo ravages sick garden – sick politicians not affected, and all in search of new territory to call their own domain ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Alipurduar, Aug. 8: A lone tusker last night destroyed eight huts in the closed Dheklapara Tea Estate, where workers are trying to eke out a living with whatever they can lay their hands on.
The estate in Birpara block has remained closed since 2006 and the workers have not been getting the monthly special government assistance of Rs 1,000 for locked out gardens for the past four months.
The elephant entered the garden around 10.30pm, sending people scampering out of their homes in the darkness.
“We know that marauding elephants target houses in which food grains are stored. But there was not a single grain in my hut and yet, the elephant completely destroyed it. The animal also trampled over the utensils and now, we have nothing to cook our food in,” cried Budahn Munda.
He added that after the assistance had dried up, he and others in the garden had been breaking boulders on riverbeds and earning a pittance of Rs 32 a day. “Neither the forest department nor the panchayat, the office of which is located just outside the garden, comes to our aid. Now, we will have to rebuild our huts,” said Munda.
Kishel Kumar, another garden worker, who hurt himself while trying to escape from the elephant, said no one could see the animal in the pitch darkness as there was no electricity in the closed garden.
“The elephant entered the garden from the adjacent Reti forest. I ran out of the hut and stumbled. The elephant was standing in front of me. But it did not attack me and I escaped with bruises,” said Kumar.
Forest department sources said the elephant had also entered the neighbouring Joy Birpara garden and damaged five huts there. It then re-entered Dheklapara and went back to the forest around 1am after being chased by the workers with torches.
The Dalgaon range officer had to face the ire of the workers when he reached the garden, 70km from here, at 9am today. He left the garden after assuring the labourers that patrolling in the area would be intensified.
Conservator of forests (north Bengal) Manindra Biswas said the workers who had lost huts the previous night would be given tarpaulin sheets and food grains.
Anandalal Tanti, another worker, said there was one ailing person in every hut and no health teams visited the garden. “There is a scarcity of drinking water also, as two of the three bore wells were damaged by elephants,” he said.
The subdivisional officer of Alipurduar, Anurag Srivastav, said he would instruct the block development officer to rush aid to the victims of the elephant attack. “I am also informing the assistant labour commissioner about the non-payment of the special assistance to the workers,” he said.