MIDNAPORE: In an attempt to arrest the menace of elephants in the western districts of the state, the West Bengal forest department led by Forest Minister Binaykrishna Burman will launch 4 state-of-art vehicles called 'Airavat' in Kolkata on Monday.
Airavat is the name of the mythical war elephant and the pet of Lord Indra. The Karnataka Government has also used this name for their inter-state cruise bus service.
Apart from 10 forest guards, each Junglemahal 'Airavat' will have tranquilizers, rifles, hooters, public address systems and four halogen lights and chains.
However, the locals of Jangalmahal are not very hopeful of vehicles tackling big herds of elephants.
"The elephants pass through the Dalma forest range in herds. They are capable of overturning even trucks, leave alone smaller vehicles. How will the forest vehicles manage to shoo away 30-40 elephants with just one siren? We baat drums, light fire still find it difficult to shoo away the enormous animals. Until they are satisfied in destroying our crops, they won't move," said Madhu Mahato, a farmer in Lodhasuli in the western Paschim Medinipur district, which along with neighbouring Bankura face most of the music of the elephants.
However, a forest official in Bishnupur range blamed the humans for the human-elephant conflict. "First, humans have destroyed their home. Now, people try to hurt them when they come to the villages for food. If the villagers don't panic and keep calm, we can easily channelise them out of habitations, with the new vehicles. But, people raise a hue and cry and try to trap the elephants, which makes them more aggressive," he said.
Several humans were killed by elephants in the western part of the state when mob tried to attack the herd.
However, affected villagers pledge to 'avenge' the crop loss.
"We work hard on the fields and suddenly one night or day, a herd of wild elephants come and destroy our crops, hearth and wreak havoc on our villages. What should we do then? Foresters don't come then to use tranquilizers or blares. We only have to scare and shoo them. Why should we bear losses every season for these animals?" questions Biren Das of Amlasuli, who bore losses worth Rs 1 lakh last year when his crop was destroyed just before reaping in a village near the Hoomgarh forest range in Paschim Medinipur district.
"Animals have all rights. Humans are dispensable," said Malati Singh of Salboni in Paschim Medinipur district.
"The elephants are 'unruly drunkards' who come and destroy our huts making hadiya (rice beer) to drink the bewerage. The elephants know only how to destroy. What harm do we do to them," Malati questions.
Humans and elephants among other animals have coexisted much before since British classified this area as 'Junglemahal'.