Chandu Uraon loves to listen to the radio. But more than the film songs that his transistor belts out, the tribal farmer of Chhattisgarh’s Kuhadi village is hooked on to a daily five-minute “elephant bulletin” in the evening.
It is the time when part-time radio jockey Amalendu Mishra comes on air every day, advising residents of the state’s interiors about elephant movements. He tells listeners the locations where herds of elephants have been spotted and the direction in which they might be headed. Depending on where the elephants are, Mishra advises the listeners to be vigilant.
Uraon soaks in what is being said on the radio with rapt attention and them jumps up, telling his wife: “Aaj haathi idhar aa sakte hain,” (elephants may come this side today). He then rushes outside to guard his crop.
For many like Uraon, the radio talk show “Hamar Hathi Hamar Goth” (our elephant, our talk) broadcast by the Ambikapur station of the All India Radio is a godsend, and Mishra their savior.
Man-elephant conflict is the most acute in areas of Chhattisgarh such as Sarguja, Jashpur and Balrampur. The state along with Jharkhand and Odisha is home to 10% of the country’s population, but account for approximately 65% of the human casualty in the conflict.
Some 50 people were killed by elephants in Chhattisgarh last year. Marauding herds of elephants have also destroyed crops worth crores of rupees.
For many, therefore, Mishra’s “elephant forecasts” are of life-and-death importance.
“The fear factor of the tribals has decreased because of this programme. The programme started in September last years and we have completed 150th episode recently,” Mishra points out.
Much of the local AIR station’s popularity is riding on Mishra’s show.
“Nearly four million people hear this programme in this region as per our estimate. People are very happy and we are receiving tremendous response from this programme. We are receiving hundreds of letters per month about this programme and people are thanking us for broadcasting it,” says Mahendra Kumar Sahu, the progamme officer of AIR Ambikapur.
Mishra, however, remains modest. An expert on wild elephants who had made documentaries on the majestic animals, he says he is only doing his bit to save lives.
“In the present circumstances when we have not been able to find a permanent solution to the wild elephant problem, at least informing the locals about movement of wild elephants can help them to face them,” Mishra says.