A nightmare without end for the people of Dumka, it's the familiar though tragic tale of the man-animal conflict—hungry, lost elephants descending on villages, destroying property, raiding crops, trampling people to death. This time, at the receiving end are some 16 million people in 10,000 forest villages in Jharkhand. They share their habitat with 657 elephants. Ironically, this is part of the Jharkhand government's 'Elephant Project' area—9,406 sq km covering 17 forest divisions—which has been set up to secure the habitat for the pachyderms. Clearly, this hasn't really improved their lot and year after year they turn their fury on poor, helpless villagers.
So what do people like Urmila Devi do? Build tree-top homes and climb up whenever the tuskers come hunting. More than 10,000 tribals, belonging to about 200 villages in Kathikund, Gopikandar and Sikaripara blocks of Dumka, have been facing sustained tusker fury from a "gang of 13" for the past three years. Many of them have actually abandoned their mud-and-thatch homes to live precariously on tree tops. Every night they climb up to their tree-top home to feel a little secure. Six women have even delivered their babies in these tree homes.