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Man-Animal Conflict on the Rise in Karbi Anglong District, Assam

Forest officials face shortage of manpower

A Correspondent

Bokajan, July 25: The man-animal conflict has assumed an alarming proportion in the hill district of Karbi Anglong. It has once again brought the inconvenient truth about the ill-equipped forest department to the fore.
Panic has gripped the residents in the Khatkhati area of Bokajan as a herd of over 10 wild elephants, including calves, invade villages in the area, destroying houses and belongings. The elephants charge standing crops and also raid food grain stocks of the poor villagers in the area. The residents here spend sleepless nights beating drums, lighting fires and bursting crackers to keep the wild elephants at bay all through the night. Not a single household has been spared from the damage incurred by the elephants.
Frustration mounts amongst the residents as forest officials cite shortage of manpower and logistics to deal with the rising cases of man-animal conflict. Besides the crippling shortage of manpower, the forest officials here have been carrying rifles without ammunition which exposes the unpreparedness of the department officials in dealing with emergency situations.

What is more baffling is the fact that the department has only one rifle to arm the force guarding a 24.79 sq. km forest range. “We have a gun but no ammunition to put it to use,” said Sucheng Shyam, Ranger, East Forest Division, Bokajan.

“We sometimes sling the gun over the shoulder just to scare firewood vendors and timber smugglers. However, if they come to know the truth we may land ourselves in trouble,” said an officer on conditions of anonymity.
Residents claim the lack of apathy and work culture among the forest department officials in containing the elephant terror in the area. “We alert the forest officials each time the herd raids our village. But they never respond well and always arrive late citing shortage of ammunition and manpower. They are also hesitant to help the villagers push the animals back to the forest,” alleged a villager.