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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

Jumbo headache for officials in four constituencies of poll-bound Bengal

There are 7,673 polling stations in these four constituencies, district administration officials said that almost 30% of these are in the forest areas where the elephants move around. Polling in this area will be held on May 12 and the administration is planning out what they would do during the polls.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 31, 2019 13:06 IST
Koushik Dutta
Koushik Dutta
Hindustan Times, Midnapore
Herds of wild elephants come from the Dalma range of hills in Jharkhand every year. They snuff out human lives, damage property and destroy crops, triggering widespread fear and apprehension among the residents along the way.
Herds of wild elephants come from the Dalma range of hills in Jharkhand every year. They snuff out human lives, damage property and destroy crops, triggering widespread fear and apprehension among the residents along the way.(Representative Image/AP File Photo )
         

In vast swathes of the western parts of Bengal in the districts of Bankura, Jhargram and West Midnapore, the administration has another threat to the polling process to contend with — elephants.

Herds of wild elephants come from the Dalma range of hills in Jharkhand every year. They snuff out human lives, damage property and destroy crops, triggering widespread fear and apprehension among the residents along the way.

The area where these marauding herds usually roam around covers major parts of four Lok Sabha constituencies — Midnapore, Jhargram, Bankura and Bishnupur.

There are 7,673 polling stations in these four constituencies, district administration officials said that almost 30% of these are in the forest areas where the elephants move around.

Polling in this area will be held on May 12 and the administration is planning out what they would do during the polls.

“A number of wild elephants roam about in this region. Though the elephants have returned to the Dolma range, there is apprehension that they might return any time. We have decided to increase vigil. All possible steps would be taken so that the animals are kept at bay and do not come in the way of voters and polling workers,” said Binay Krishna Barman, forest minister of Bengal.

District magistrates have already held meetings with forest officials and asked them to make necessary arrangements including keeping quick response teams ready to tackle any emergency situation.

Divisional forest officer (Midnapore), Rabindranath Saha, said trained elephants would be deployed to thwart wild herds. “There would be special teams, special kits, mobile vans and quick response teams in these area,” said Saha.

The elephants roam around in typical groups of 10-15.

In the past two years, more than 60 human lives were snuffed out elephants in these areas of Bengal.

“Right now, there are no herds. But none can say when they will come back. We have pushed them back but they can return within a month. So we are on an alert,” said Arnab Sengupta, DFO (Rupnarayan).

Uma Shankar S, district magistrate of Bankura, said a primary report reveals that 30% of the total booths are in the forest areas where the elephants usually move.

“In areas such as Sonamuki, Bishnupur and Patrasayer, wild elephants are a menace. They have killed several persons in the past few years. The forest department should take steps. If a herd roams around in the area on the polling day, or days close to it, people won’t come out of their homes to cast their vote,” said Swapan Ghosh, BJP leader in Bishunpur area (in Bankura district).

There have been incidents in the past when those campaigning for polls have been attacked by elephants. “There are many booths in these areas. We can’t imagine what will happen if confronted by these animals while campaigning. In 2015, a young leader of our party was killed in elephant attack,” said Anil Sikaria, a district Congress leader of West Midnapore.

Villagers say the animals can come any moment and very few would venture out if elephants are seen in days close to the polling day. “In 2016 my mother was killed by an elephant. Central forces can provide security from goons, not wild elephants,” said Sanat Mahato, a resident of Pirakata area which is in Medinipur Lok Sabha constituency.

First Published: Mar 31, 2019 13:06 IST