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Man-elephant conflict victims of Udalguri deprieved of ex-gratia for three years

Non payment of ex-gratia to 42 families whose relatives had been killed by wild elephants during last three years ie 2013,2014 and 2015 has posed serious setback to conservation activities of forest department in Udalguri district.It needs mention that man-elephant conflict in remote villages of Udalguri district bordering Bhutan-Arunachal has already been recognized as the highest man-elephant conflict zone in India by international conservation organizations like USFWS,Asian Elephant Support etc.Man-elephant conflict casualities in Udalguri district have been 13 man and 8 wild elephants in 2012,19 man and 10 wild elephants in 2013,24 man and 7 wild elephants in 2014,21 man and 6 wild elephants in 2015 and 1 man and 1elephant in 2016.Thus its very serious to note the casualities of 77 man and 32 wild elephants in just a district alone during last four years.The man-elephant conflict scenario has been improved last year in 2015 with members of 'Elephants on the Line' (a local village based programme for the mitigation of man-elephant conflict in indo-Bhutan villages of Udalguri district) with support from USFWS,NCSU,Riddle's Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary (all USA based);Dhansiri Forest Division,Udalguri, Tea garden managements and Udalguri civil administration worked hard visiting conflict zone villages in the district to create awareness among people so as to protect lives and property of people.

The number of casualities started coming down during 2015.But non payment of compensation and ex-gratia to victims families for last three years has made situation worse with effected people refuging to cooperate with forest department of Udalguri district.It is known that Assam government and BTC authority have stopped releasing ex-gratia or damage compensation to the victims' families for last three years.As a result the role of forest department in mitigating man-elephant conflict in Udalguri district has now been badly effected. Already forest department of Udalguri district has been suffering due to lack of man power,vehicles,weapons etc.Forest personnel working in Bornadi Wildlife Sanctuary do not have modern necessary gadgets like binoculars,DSLR camers,night vision devices, to monitor or track wild elephants or other animals.No fund ever had been release to Bornadi WLS falling under Manas Tiger Reserve during last year. The situation is worse in Bornadi WLS due to non availability of vehicles,where as at least 20 wild elephants are still taking shelter in the WLS.

The compensation for house and crop damages too have yet to be paid to victims (for last three years)in the district.The situation has compelled forest personnel to restrict or avoid their movements in the HEC villages fearing public anger, paving way for poachers or illegal tree loggers roam free inside reserve forests in the district.

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Jayanta Kumar Das's picture

Environmental journalist.

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