Shillong: Used to the occupational hazards of guarding the India-Bangladesh border, personnel of the Border Security Force (BSF) are facing a different kind of problem — a king-seized one.
Herds of elephants, moving in search of food, are regularly ‘harassing’ BSF personnel who guard the India-Bangladesh border in the Garo Hills. They demolish their makeshift shelters and border fences.
“Wild elephants crisscrossing parts of the West Garo Hills in Meghalaya, along the India-Bangladesh border, are turning out to be a jumbo headache for us. A herd of around 40 elephants regularly roams around in the area for fodder. In the process, they damage the fencing along the border and trample the makeshift shelters we construct for our troops,” said T N S Reddy, commandant of BSF’s 183rd battalion that is stationed in Dhanakgiri.
No one can accuse the elephants of being biased. “The herd not only damages property on the Indian side, it enters Bangladesh and creates havoc there. In fact, the herd regularly destroys paddy cultivated by Bangladeshi villagers,” Reddy said. “Though elephant corridors have been created, the animals choose to ignore them and create their own passages by demolishing fences and anything else that comes in their way,” he pointed out.
On measures taken to deter the animals, Reddy said, “Bursting crackers and firing in the air are some of the measures taken to disband the herd.”
Echoing his sentiments, Satish Kumar Dogra, the second-in-command of the BSF sector headquarters in Tura, said, “The menace of wild elephants is regularly faced by several BSF units in the Garo Hills.” In fact, herds of wild elephants, which damage fencings and cross over into Bangladesh and back, also provide cover to militants and smugglers sneaking in and out of the country, intelligence sources revealed.
“It is a fact that militants and smugglers use such innovative and high-risk methods to cross over into Bangladesh,” an intelligence source said. Cross-border infiltration of humans is a hotly-debated issue between Bangladesh and India. The official further added, “Smugglers and rebels are locals who are used to seeing elephants move across the border. They know how to use them to sneak into the other side.”
Reddy acknowledged the magnitude of the problem and said, “Under the Wildlife Act, we cannot fire at the elephants and the militants and smugglers take advantage of this. They move with impunity, showing no fear of being intercepted by the BSF.”
The issue has been taken up with the deputy commissioners and district magistrates of both countries, Dogra said and added that “necessary arrangements are in the pipeline.”