Press Coverage

The Telegraph

NGO aims to end conflict - Jumbos on rampage in hills

 

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Shillong, Dec. 27: Human-elephant conflicts continue to displace many villagers in Meghalaya’s Garo hills.

A police report said on December 17, a herd of wild elephants destroyed the house of Menjing Sangma and four others at Kalapara village in West Garo Hills.

On December 21, wild elephants attacked Colon M. Sangma at Rongdong village in South Garo Hills. The victim who sustained injuries was shifted to the civil hospital in Tura.

A forest department official today said the victims’ families can claim compensation according to rules set up by the government.

The official, however, admitted that the government was yet to adopt any long-term strategy to deal with frequent incidents of human-elephant conflict.

Last year, an injured wild elephant went on the rampage in many villages and killed four in the forest area near Selsella in West Garo Hills.

The incident forced the villagers to abandon the place for some days.

According to the official, the main reason for the conflict is the encroachment of forest areas used by elephants to move from one place to another.

Many of these areas have been used for cultivation.

To reduce human-elephant conflict, Garo hills-based Samrakshan Trust, an NGO, is on the job to help the villagers.

According to the NGO, human-elephant conflicts occur because of conversion of barren lands for crop production in ways that are not compatible with the survival of the elephants.

These include monoculture cash crops such as cashew, areca nut, rubber, coffee and tea; horticulture crops such as pineapple, citrus and temperate fruits and spices such as ginger, and cardamom.

Such conversion permanently denudes forests and drastically reduce the habitat suitable for the elephants to meet their ecological requirements.

The focus of Samrakshan Trust’s initiative is a “win-win” situation where farmers benefit from better yields without drastic change in use of land.

Kamal Medhi, the team manager of the NGO has recently said that learning from various experiences in the Northeast that have had similar objectives under comparable circumstances, “we are attempting to assist farmers to intensively cultivate small plots of land with a judicious combination of food and commercial crops”.

Shillong Times

From Our Correspondent

TURA: A visit by a high-level NCP delegation to a relief camp in Assam housing displaced villagers from East Garo Hills turned ugly after they were gheraoed by a mob, forcing Assam police to open blank fire and lathicharge the crowd. Union Minister of State for Rural Development Agatha K Sangma, Leader of the Opposition Conrad K Sangma and Tura MLA Purno A Sangma were in the team.

Agatha and her delegation had paid a day-long visit to the trouble-torn district of East Garo Hills. The Union Minister and her father Purno A Sangma met the State Home Minister HDR Lyngdoh, Supply Minister Augustine Marak and C&RD Minister FW Momin at Resubelpara circuit house. Both sides agreed that confidence-building measures was the need of the hour.

Following the meeting, the NCP team's convoy arrived at Dilma relief camp to meet the inmates.

Having been made aware of the exodus of a large number of Rabhas from Resubelpara-Mendipather area into neighbouring Assam, the Union Minister decided to visit some of the relief camps where displaced were kept in that State.

The delegation, which also included press persons, was taken to Sotomatia village, in Dudhnoi area, where a sizeable number of people fleeing Garo Hills had taken shelter. Former MLA of Dudhnoi, Pranay Rabha, was present to welcome the NCP team.

However, a group of people in the crowd began to allege that houses were being torched in the vicinity of the village and forced the Assam police present over there to go and investigate.

As soon as the Assam police left the venue the crowd became agitated to see the Meghalaya delegation and tension ran high with shouts decrying the ongoing violence in Garo Hills ranting the air.

The mob soon swelled to several hundreds in number and began arming themselves with daggers, spears, machetes, axes and other lethal weapons. They blocked the entry and exit routes and

prevented the vehicles from leaving the place.

Repeated requests to the angry crowd by PA Sangma and Conrad Sangma to allow them to leave failed to materialize.

As security personnel from Meghalaya put out a security cordon around the vehicle where the Agatha and Purno Sangma were in, the frenzied mob demanded that the leaders come out of their vehicles.

Some in the crowd tried to push dry straws underneath the vehicle while others filled empty bottles with petrol.

Frantic calls were made to the authorities in Assam and Meghalaya as it became dark and the impasse continued for well over an hour.

The miscreants also cut tree branches onto the road and disconnected the electricity supply to the area.

As the situation began to get out of hand Dudhnoi police arrived on the scene but were unable to force the mob to leave.

The Deputy Commissioner of Goalpara, PK Goswami, and Superintendent of police (SP) Louis Aind, arrived in the nick of time with two truckloads of armed police and women constables.

They opened fire in the air and lathicharged the crowd before the convoy could finally break free from the anger of the mob.

"In my 35 years as a politician I have seen many a mob fury but not like this. As Union Labour Minister I witnessed mob anger from unions but today it was shocking to see men and women suddenly get swayed by anger and pick up lethal weapons to threaten those who came in peace," a shocked Purno Sangma revealed later.

"What has happened is very unfortunate," said Agatha Sangma and expressed hope that confidence is built between both communities at the earliest.

Following the unpleasant incident, the East Garo Hills district administration has taken a decision to strongly advise all MLAs and ministers not to go to Assam without prior permission under any circumstances.

Travel from Garo Hills to Guwahati and Shillong through Assam has been strongly advised against, the administration has informed.

The Telegraph

Villagers rescue elephant

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Shillong, Oct. 15: The Balpakram National Park division of the forest department rescued a young elephant last week with the help of the residents of Rongsa Awe Aking village in South Garo Hills and police.

The elephant had fallen into a deep gorge, while it was foraging along with the rest of the herd.

Guthan D. Shira, a villager of Rongsa Awe, first informed the police about the incident and requested them to save the elephant.

“We received an emergency message from the police department and our division responded immediately,” said Pawan Agrahari, divisional forest officer, BNP division.

It was a deep gorge adjacent to Jadigittim in South Garo Hills .

“The rescue effort took a day and villagers were a great help. We removed earth from one side of the gorge to pull the elephant out,” said C.G. Momin, range forest officer of the national park.

“We observed the elephant until it found the herd and disappeared into the forest,” Momin added.

Kamal Medhi, the spokesperson for the Samrakhsan Trust, which is engaged in preservation and conservation of the environment in Garo hills, said it was a positive sign that the people are engaged in saving the elephant.

“Conservation will be possible only with the active support of the people,” he added.

The Telegraph

Bangla turtle smugglers make a killing


OUR CORRESPONDENT

Shillong, Sept. 25: Bangladesh has become the source of providing endangered Indian flapshell turtles to markets in Meghalaya’s Garo hills.

Indian flapshell turtles need to be protected as these are categorised in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act. Selling, buying or killing them is an offence.

Incidents of smuggling turtles from Bangladesh to Sibbari in South Garo Hills are on the rise. Three Indian flapshell turtles were seized on Thursday from Murry Marak, a fish vendor, during a raid on the Sibbari market.

A forest and wildlife official said the illegal trade of endangered turtle species had been on along the Bangladesh border and Sibbari was one of the most popular markets for Indian flapshell turtles.

A forest official admitted that smugglers from Bangladesh were supplying the turtles to Garo hills. Marak confessed that she had bought the turtles from a Bangladeshi named Abdul. According to Marak, Abdul regularly supplies turtles to select vendors in Sibbari market. Marak was caught red-handed while selling the turtles to a forest official who posed as a buyer.

Forest range officer of Balpakrem National Park division, C.G. Momin, said the accused would be prosecuted under the Wildlife Protection Act and measures would be initiated to tighten vigil along the borders to stop illegal wildlife trade.

Investigations also revealed that most of the fish and vegetable vendors are involved in the sale of turtles.

According to Momin, the Bangladeshis catch the turtles from rivers and bring these in utensils to sell to fish vendors or customers in Garo hills.

According to Momin, while the price for 1kg of turtle meat is Rs 250 in Bangladesh, in Sibbari market the price is Rs 350 a kg. The price escalates once these are smuggled to other parts of Meghalaya.

Kamal Medhi, the spokesperson for Samrakshan Trust, an NGO, today said the trust, along with the forest department, (BNP division), had been taking the initiatives to detect sale of turtles.



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