In Assam, the encroachment of forests by tea growers has blown violent conflicts between elephants and humans. It is to say that the local people and officials of Assam Officials say that small-scale tea is being cultivated on most parts of encroached forests. But local people accused the big tea gardens of charging the BBC that no new survey of their lands has been done.
Large tea companies rejected the allegations and said that keeping the forests themselves is in the interest of tea gardens. However, according to the 2015 report of the Environment Ministry, “The reason for the decline in the forest area is because of encroachment, organic pressure, harvesting and zooming.”
Official figures show that between 2006 and 2016, wild elephants killed 800 people in Assam. According to the Government of India data, there is a man’s death every day due to elephant or tiger. During 2014-2015, in the case of death of elephants, Assam was in place of West Bengal, where 54 people died during this period. Mary Kerketta, living in Sesa Tea Bagan village of South Assam, says, “I could not even meet my daughter in the last minute, Elephant had crushed her.” When the elephant attacked in October last year, 26-year-old Bobita Kerketta was on a scooter of her friend and she was jumping out of there.
Elephants have also died in this conflict. According to the Ministry of Environment, 72 elephants have died between 2013 and 2014. In 2012, this number was more than 100. According to the data of conservation organizations, between 2001 and 2014, 225 elephants died due to poaching, trains, poison and mortality.
60% of elephants in Asia live in India. Their population is highest in Karnataka, followed by Assam where the number is more than 5,700. The protectionists say that the elephants in Assam have become more aggressive than before because their habitat is becoming less and the traditional corridors are getting occupied day by day.
Manas Sharma, a warden of the forest of Urlgudi district, says, “Earlier this region was a forest, used to be buffer between the first village and reserved forest areas where the elephants used to live.” He says, “There was no shortage of food for elephants, but as the population grew, tea plantations started in these areas which are not under our control.” He said, “The encroachment has now reached the adjoining border area with reserved forests, which comes under our control (Assam Forest Department).”
He adds, “Elephants do not eat tea leaves, so now they are entering villages, that is the reason that we are seeing this struggle between elephants and humans.” Sharma says that encroachments are being made on these forests which cultivate tea on a small scale. Officers of the Assam Revenue Department on the request to print the name told that the land is being confiscated by some people who are cultivating tea on small scale in the forest area.
There are 56 thousand small tea producers registered in 23 districts of the Government Assam Tea Council. But locals say that there are such number of small producers who have not been registered. Many small producers also sell their tea to big companies.
People living in tea producing districts say that big tea companies should also be questioned. Dipen Boro, leader of the Bodoland Territorial Council, says, “Why is not their land ever surveyed? Even people who were given land 70 years ago.According to our estimates, there are 30 to 40 percent encroachment (big) tea companies and we are pressurizing the Circle Officer and the concerned officials to tell the actual situation of tea gardens.” He says that soon he will take this information under Right to Information Act.
The Indian Tea Association, which represents the largest tea companies in Assam, says the allegations are baseless. Sangh secretary Sandeep Ghosh said, “We have not been able to destroy forests in forests or cut trees and plant tea plants.”
He says, “We do not have any right over the land.” We can not put pressure on the government to do or do the survey, it is the duty of the government to mobilize the revenue and do all of the land. ”
Will the government ever survey the land of tea gardens, it will tell at the same time. But, the struggle between elephants and humans in Assam is taking a very serious form. With the increase of human population and the continuous harvesting of forests, almost the whole state is asking whether human and elephants can now live together.
(image credit: The Logical Indian)