By Sushanta Talukdar
A 7-year-old girl was trampled to death and three others, including the victim’s father, were injured in depredation by a herd of wild elephants in Garmur village and in a nearby village under Bokakhat sub-division in upper Assam’s Golaghat district on Tuesday night.
Local ruling Congress legislator of Bokakhat Assembly constituency Arun Phukan told The Hindu that about 60-70 elephants that had come down from Karbi Anglong hills in search of food. They destroyed several houses and granaries in the area during which the girl, Devi Rabi Das, was trampled to death in Garmur while father Ramesh Rabi Das was seriously injured. In a nearby village two other persons, Akash Rabi Das and Durga Rabi Das, were injured, he added.
Mr. Phukan said during the year about 12 persons had died in man-elephant conflict in areas under his constituency.
The legislator attributed the increasing incidents of elephant depredation in the area to the destruction of the elephant corridor, massive destruction of forests in Karbi Anglong and Golaghat districts resulting in severe shortage of elephant fodder and poachers killing elephants for tusks and trunks. He added that a number of stone crushers have come up in the elephant corridors which had deprived the elephants their natural habitats used as shelter.
He said the herd contained a number of calves due to which the mother elephants and adult elephants had been extra-cautious about their safety.
Mr. Phukan said there was no other alternative for the restoration of the elephant corridor and afforestation to ensure that the elephants have sufficient fodder.
“As compared to the losses suffered, a paltry amount is given to affected families as compensation,” he added.
Right to Information activist Rohit Choudhury, who hails from Bokakhat, alleged that the stone crushers in the area had been allowed to operate despite a specific directive issued by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to the State government for closure and removal of the stone crushers and brick kilns from a No Development Zone notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1996. This covers an area of 15 km around Numaligarh Refinery in Golaghat.
The NGT issued the directive after Mr. Choudhury moved the tribunal against unregulated quarrying and mining activities permitted in and around Kaziranga National Park and operation of the stone crushers brick kiln activities and other activities in a No Development Zone in contravention of the MoEF notification.