BARIPADA: A herd of at least 70 elephants from Dalma forest in Jharkhand is wreaking havoc in villages under the forest ranges of Deuli, Betnoti and Rasgobindpur since the last fortnight.
People under Rasgobindpur range are the worst affected. A 12-year-old girl Rani Marandi, daughter of Suna Marandi of Astia village under Rasgobindpur range was injured when a wall of their thatched house caved in as an elephant tried to damage it on Wednesday night. Rani was admitted to a local health centre and discharged on Thursday. Crops in several hectares of land and two classrooms of Phuljhari Upper Primary School have also been damaged by the elephants in the last five days.
Suna said his house has been damaged by the animals and the family is living under a polythene covered roof. Earlier this week, houses of Hiramani Besra and Jogendra Marandi in Astia were damaged by the elephants. The two villagers had a narrow escape. A farmer of Chitrada village said his paddy crops in nine acres of land was destroyed by the elephants.
Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Swayam Kumar Mallick said a fortnight back, 15 elephants from Similipal forest also sneaked into Ashanbani in Betnoti range. Along with the 70 elephants from Dalma, the Similipal herd has caused large scale damage to crops under Deuli, Betnoti and Rasgobindpur ranges. He said efforts are on to drive back the elephants to the forests.
The DFO said elephants from Dalma forest stray into this part of Odisha every year being attracted by the smell of Mohua flowers, ripe paddy and fruits. In 2018-19, the elephants had damaged crops over 692.02 acres of land. As many as 2,218 affected persons have been selected for compensation.