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Saturday, July 25, 2009

... and now the turn of elephants

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Besides in some other countries, the stories of man-animal conflict are commonly told and heard in many parts of India. In Jharkhand, the newly formed state of India, stories of man- animal conflict can specifically be called as the stories of man-elephant conflict. Why? Are there more elephants in Jharkhand than in other states of the country? It is not. But I hear and read the stories of elephants invading and destroying homes and properties of farmers who stand fast and claim compensations. Compensation and relief are the two most important terms that any one going to publish a dictionary of democracy should include in.

The principal complainants of elephant-activities in Jharkhand so far, have been the farmers who complain about the destruction of their houses and crops by elephants who come from the forest nearby. About two years back, once a wild elephant had entered into the city area of Ranchi. It had travelled upto a long distance damaging houses and other property; and had started marching towards the secretariat. ... The incident was somehow averted and the detail is not known to me.

Here is a latest story from Jharkhand, collected from the local print media.

…The Head Master of Makdamdih Middle School of Jharkhand’s Saraikela-kharsawan district complained that elephants from local forest area known as Dalma broke away the doors and windows of the school, damaged the kitchen and ate way all the ration that was kept in a closed room. Let me explain here that every school has to keep a kitchen and a store room – kitchen for cooking Khichadi or the food for the school children under the ambitious “mid-day meal” programme of the government, and the store room for keeping the ration provided by the government. The store room is also meant for storing vegetables, masalas, edible oils, jaggery and beaten rice etc. all to be purchased by the money provided generously by the government.

On hearing the complaint, a team of the officers of the Forest Department – the legal guardian of all the wildlife, rushed to the school and assessed the loss for compensation by the government.

Since the elephants this time, as per the reports "ate away all the ration that was provided to the school under the mid-day meal programme" of the government, let us have a more detailed talk about the matter.

It is well known to all that the programme Mid-day meal being run in all the schools upto the middle level to attract the children of families living below the poverty line to get enrolled in government schools. The government provides ration and money to run the programme through Saraswati Vahinis organised by the heads of schools. The reports of miscellaneous types are being read in news papers by the common public - some positive and some negative.

The reason behind man and animal conflict in this state is reported to be the loss of the forest area. Many of the forests here have shrunk to small greeneries only. Major parts of forests have gone and it has become a difficult situation for wild animals especially for elephants who remain on move during most of the time.

Elephants unlike some other wild animals, have the habit of walking from one forest area to the other through paths decided and defined by themselves. Since major parts of forests have been converted into crop fields and open lands, the elephants have lost both their homes and the walking routes. The learned people in the forest department talk about elephant galleries but a common man does not know -what it is? when and how it can be built.? He can just guess that a big sum of money may surely be spent whenever a project like this may be formulated and launched by the government.Let us move to the main point.

One thing which is being reported here and there is that the programme of Mid-Day -Meal is attracting not only small children to school, it is attracting heads of schools, teachers and their associates, and the other staff also. This time, as the case mentioned above, the programme has attracted elephants as well. Food is the first priorty for life.

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