By Rashmi Drolia
RAIPUR: Education in Chhattisgarh has hit an elephantine wall, particularly for children residing in villages hemmed in by forests. Rampaging tuskers in forests on the periphery of these villages have left scores of students stranded.
At least 100 students of Raigarh district have quit studies after class 10 as they dread crossing forests to study in higher secondary schools, fearing attacks from elephants. For tribal students of Puringa village, walking 10 km to a school at Hati village is fraught with danger as man-elephant conflict peaks in the worst-hit districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Jashpur and Korba.
Talking to TOI, vice-president of Janpad panchayat in Dharamjaigarh, Sanjay Gupta, said there are at least 100 tuskers in forests spanning 8km. "Due to rise in pachyderm population in last few years, students quit studies after class 10 over last five years. They prefer farming or other jobs than braving rampaging tuskers to study in school," he said.
The situation is same at Purunga, Kakedar, Tendumuda, Samarsingha, Gerwani and Gida villages. Students were traumatised after elephants trampled three schoolchildren.
Block education officer V K Singh said along with elephants there are other factors that deter students. "It's a tough task to walk to the school at Hati, particularly for girls. We have sent a proposal to tribal and education department to upgrade the existing school to higher secondary level, then students won't have to trek long distances," he said.
Some students have displayed courage and continue with their studies. "Most of them have bi-cycles and manage to cover the distance," said Singh.
In Raigarh's Dharamjaigarh area alone, 26 elephants and 64 people have died over 10 years in the continuing conflict between elephants and humans. While state government continues to pay unsatisfactory compensation to victims, it has also failed to resolve the issue.
Raipur: Furious tribals in Jashpur district recently threatened to take up arms against elephants. They warned that if administration can't resolve the issue, they will kill the elephants.
While villagers have shown restraint due to religious sentiments, tusker deaths have risen with three deaths in Korba, three in Dharamjaigarh and two in Jashpur this year. To save paddy fields, villagers fence their farms with electrical cables which electrocute elephants.
Though forest department claims elephants aren't being killed by poachers, locals at Korba say ivory smugglers are active in the region. Locals have been demanding an elephant corridor in their region to maintain peace. However, the proposed corridor at Korba and Jashpur was put on the back burner after mining industries sought to acquire forest lands.