Holiday for educational institutions in Wayanad’s Thirunelli on Tuesday as ‘killer’ elephant Belur Makha roams free

The Farmers' Relief Forum called for a 'conscious hartal' in Wayanad on Tuesday. The Congress, Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM), and CPI (ML) have pledged support for the shutdown.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 13, 2024 | 7:33 AMUpdated Feb 13, 2024 | 7:33 AM

Holiday for educational institutions in Wayanad’s Thirunelli on Tuesday as ‘killer’ elephant Belur Makha roams free

Wayanad District Collector Renu Raj has declared a holiday for all educational institutions in Thirunelli panchayat for the second consecutive day on Tuesday, 13 February, even as a wild elephant that killed a 42-year-old farmer on Saturday, remained elusive.

Meanwhile, the Farmers’ Relief Forum called for a ‘conscious hartal’ in the district on Tuesday. The Congress, Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM), and CPI (ML) have pledged support for the shutdown.

The radio-collared tuskless bull elephant, nicknamed Belur Makhna, stomped Aji Panachiiyil to death after breaking through the compound wall of a house on Saturday.

The Karnataka forest department had captured and radio-collared the elephant in November 2023, before releasing it in the forest bordering Kerala.

Efforts to tranquilize and capture the elephant went in vain on Monday, and irate residents prevented the Kerala forest officials from leaving the place. They demanded the elephant be gunned down.

Kerala forest department officials said the jumbo was moving fast and they were yet to locate it in a suitable place to tranquilize it. The department plans to capture the animal and shift it to the Muthanga Elephant Camp.

The officials will resume the operation to capture Belur Makhna early on Tuesday.

Related: Opposition walks out from Assembly; Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi writes to CM

Opposition leader visits victim’s family

On Monday, Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly V D Satheesan visited Aji’s family and consoled them.

Speaking to the media in Wayanad, Satheesan hit out at the Left government and said the people of the hilly regions are worried due to the frequent attacks by wild elephants.

“Last year, 85 people lost their lives in nine months due to wild animal attacks. Since 2016, 909 people lost their lives in such a manner. It is now not possible to cultivate anything in the regions near forest areas. The people are concerned about their future,” Satheesan said.

He asked the government to shed apathy and take the necessary action.

“The government is yet to disburse the compensation announced for over 7,000 people who were either injured or have a family member killed in wild animal attacks. The government has allocated only ₹48 crore for resolving the man-animal conflict in the state budget,” Satheesan said.

He claimed that the Kerala Forest Department lacks equipment to track the elephants in the wild.

Related: Church flays Kerala government over death of man trampled by wild elephant

Satheesan blames forest department

“The Karnataka government had handed over the user ID and password to locate the elephant (that killed Aji) through radio collar on 5 January itself. There was a delay on the part of the Kerala Forest Department in decoding the radio collar signal,” Satheesan alleged.

Aji’s daughter, Alna, said no one else should face a similar fate as that of her father.

“No other child should ever cry like I cried,” Alna said, urging the authorities to take necessary action.

Aji was laid to rest on 10 February in the presence of hundreds who went to pay their last respects.

The Kerala government on Sunday announced the constitution of an inter-state coordination committee to monitor the movement of wild animals across state borders considering the increase in man-animal conflict in the region.

The state government had on Saturday announced ₹10 lakh compensation and assured a job to one of Aji’s family members.

The CCTV visuals of the incident showed Aji and others trying to escape from the wild elephant and jumping into the compound of a house. However, the jumbo destroyed the compound wall and chased the man.

Locals alleged that the elephant had crossed the Kerala border from Karnataka and reached Kuruvadweep locality, but the Forest department had failed to announce this and warn the people from venturing out.

(With PTI inputs)