Hours after a female elephant died after writhing in pain for over 24 hours in a pit at a project site of Patanjali Herbal and Mega Food Park near Tezpur, Assam Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma Thursday instructed forest officials to lodge an FIR against yoga guru Ramdev’s firm, holding it responsible for the incident.
The female elephant, which was the second to fall into a 10-feet deep pit after its calf first fell in it in the early hours Wednesday, sustained serious head injury and fracture in one leg when a full-grown male elephant fell on top of her. While the male elephant managed to come out, the female kept lying in the pit in pain. Though forest officials rescued the calf, the female elephant died Thursday morning even as she was undergoing treatment at the accident site.
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“It is a very tragic incident. While the area is known for frequent elephant movement, what appears is that the industrial park land given to Patanjali could be part of an elephant corridor which needs to be notified. Local people too have said that elephant movement has been there for decades. I have asked my department officials to lodge an FIR against the company which is setting up a factory there,” Brahma told The Indian Express.
The minister also described the ‘attitude’ of the Patanjali officials as insensitive to conservation and wildlife.
“Everybody in that area knows that there are several herds of wild elephants in there. The people implementing the project should have taken extra precaution. Why did they leave such huge pits unattended? It is nothing but sheer negligence and insensitivity. They have taken the matter very lightly,” added Brahma.
Speaking on behalf of Patanjali, Udayaditya Goswami said that the area, which was notified as an industrial park of AIDC in the 1990s, was not an elephant corridor, but herds of elephants did come down from Arunachal Pradesh during the harvest season to feed on ripe paddy.
“We are aware of the elephant movement and so had deployed six persons to keep a watch on it. But unfortunately, two elephants fell into a nine-ft pit after a calf fell first early Wednesday morning,” he said.
Goswami also said that Patanjali would soon raise a herbal garden covering about 28,000 bigha land inside adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, which would also serve as a refuge for elephants.
Conservation groups and forest officials too have said that the industrial estate where land was allotted Patanjali was not a notified elephant corridor. The Patanjali food park site is situated within 20 km of Nameri National Park and 30 kms of Sonai-Rupai wildlife sanctuary. Brahma, however, said: “I think there is scope for re-looking into the issue and notifying more areas elephant corridors.”
Forest officials had deployed several cranes and excavators to widen the pit and shift the injured elephant to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation & Conservation (CWRC) at Kaziranga, about 60 km away. But the elephant, which was bleeding from the trunk responded very poorly to the vets, and passed away early Thursday morning. Her two-month old calf was shifted to the CWRC.
Ramdev’s Patanjali Herbal and Mega Food Park was allotted 150 acre of land by the Assam government in the AIDC complex at Balipara near Tezpur, and it was only on November 6 that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had laid the foundation stone of the project in the presence of most of his Cabinet colleagues.