Over Rs 2.42 cr remains unpaid
SHILLONG: A whopping Rs 2. 42 crore is yet to be paid as ex gratia to the families of victims affected by the rampage of wild elephants in the state.
There were two cases of death due to elephant depredation in June and July this year, and the victims, a school teacher and a caterer were from Dalu, West Garo Hills. A few houses were also destroyed by the elephants.
According to the forest department, for the last five years (from 2009-10 to 2013-14) as many as 8241of elephant depredation cases occurred especially in Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Balpakram National Park Division. Despite frequent deaths and destruction to houses and property, the compensation is not paid in time and the same is evident from the pending amount of Rs 2,42,23,133 for as many as 6228 cases.
In Shillong wild life division, there are as many as 1784 cases of elephant depredation pending and the amount to be paid as compensation is Rs 37,28,295.The cases pending in Tura wild life division are 3693 (Rs 1,66,08,451) and there are 751 cases in Balpakram National Park (Rs 38,86,387). There are no pending cases reported from Jaintia Hills.
With no assistance from the forest department for the losses, both in terms of lives lost and property destroyed, the agony of the affected families linger.
While the ex gratia fixed for loss of human life is just Rs 1 lakh, for the loss of property the amount varies from a meager Rs 400 to 500.
The Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Sunil Kumar told The Shillong Times that it is a matter of concern that such a huge amount of money is still to be released to the affected families.
The state forest department had taken up the matter with the Centre for one time assistance to liquidate the outstanding amount, but in vain.
“We had raised the issue of providing one time grant under ‘project elephant’ with the Centre several times, but we are yet to get a positive reply,” Kumar said.
The official said that the encroachment of people in elephant habitations coupled with change in the land use pattern and jhum cultivation resulted in elephant depredation as the pachyderms are missing their habitats due to the increasing human activities.
Moreover, human settlements in several elephant corridors has resulted in man-elephant conflict.
“The disturbance of habitats of elephants is the main reason for the man-elephant conflict,” Kumar said adding that there are even buildings constructed near the routes where the elephants pass through.
The second Meghalaya Police Battalion (MLP) at Goeragre near Tura, West Garo Hills and the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Tura campus were constructed in the middle of the traditional elephants’ route.
lJune 24: School teacher Warson Ch Sangma trampled to death by wild elephants at Dapgre in Dalu, West Garo Hills,a few houses damaged.
lJuly 9: Caterer Krishna Das killed by wild elephants after destroying his house at Jhalopara village of Dalu in West Garo Hills district bordering neighbouring Bangladesh.
lFeb.10: A villager, Bola Sangma from outskirts of Selsella,West Garo Hills was trampled to death by a wild elephant.
lFeb. 6: A guard of Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL), M. Rabha was trampled to death by wild elephants at a forest area near Aradonga, West Khasi Hills.
lJan. 27: Wild elephants trampled to death a villager beyond recognition in Manckachar in West Garo Hills.
lJan. 24: Wild elephants killed a villager, Krom Marak,30 at a village near Bajengdoba area in East Garo Hills.
lJan. 10: Elephants trampled to death forest guard, Marshal Kharsynteng, in Ri-Bhoi district.