The tea gardens of West Bengal have become a hotbed for human-elephant conflict. Affected families continue to wait for compensation.
Situated on the banks of the Dima river, the Rajabhat tea garden in Alipurduar district of West Bengal is largely inhabited by Adivasi communities. The tea garden, also close to the Buxa tiger reserve has now become a hotbed for man-animal conflict. Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbansi who reports from the area says that elephants often wander into the village in search of food and while doing so, they damage and destroy the houses, crops and other belongings.
Ranjit Oraon is one such resident of Rajabhat whose house was damaged by the elephants in July 2017. “The elephants have come into the village and have caused severe damage to my family’s property on several occasions. First it was my house, then it was my uncle’s house and the third time it was my house again. The elephants have also destroyed a small shop that I run,” says Ranjit.
Ranjit works at the tea garden for Rs 150 a day which has compelled him to run a small business to feed his family of six. Over the years, elephants have attacked Ranjit’s house multiple times and despite submitting an application requesting compensation in July this year, he has not received any kind of compensation from the government. To fix his house and shop, he has spent money from his own pocket multiple times to get his house.
According to the 2010 report of the Elephant Task Force, ‘Gajah: Securing the Future for Elephants in India,’ 10,000-15,000 properties and 0.8-1 million hectares of crops are destroyed every year by elephants. The damages caused to Ranjit by the elephants in July 2017 amount up to Rs 45,000. “I took up the matter with the tea garden as well. Someone from the range office came to survey the damage. But everyone keeps sending us from one office to another,” says Ranjit who did not even receive a copy of the application indicating receipt. The family is now forced to live in a damaged house where Ranjit has put up some plastic sheets in place of the destroyed walls.
Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbansi visited the department of forest officials to investigate the matter further but the forest officials were unavailable to comment.
Please call the District Forest Official Manish Kumar Yadav on +91 9564392271 to request him to provide compensation to Ranjit.
Video by Community Correspondent Harihar Nagbanshi
Article by Kavyasri Srinath, a Producer-Writer at Video Volunteers