Kerala’s ‘elephant’ine problem: Opposition walks out from Assembly; Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi writes to CM

Forest Minister said the government has decided to form an inter-state coordination committee to monitor the movement of wild animals.

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 12, 2024 | 4:40 PMUpdated Feb 12, 2024 | 4:40 PM

Kerala’s ‘elephant’ine problem: Opposition walks out from Assembly; Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi writes to CM

The Opposition Congress-led UDF on Monday, 12 February, staged a walkout from the Kerala Assembly after the government refused to discuss the rising human-animal conflict in the hilly district of Wayanad.

42-year-old Ajeesh Panachiyil was trampled to death by a wild elephant a few days ago.

Congress leader and Kalpetta MLA T Siddique moved the notice seeking adjournment motion and said there was an unprecedented situation prevailing in the northern district where more and more wild animals were venturing into human settlements.

Earlier in the day, Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi wrote to the chief minister demanding an effective quick response mechanism to tackle wildlife attacks in the hilly district.

Forest Minister AK Saseendran said the government has decided to form an inter-state coordination committee to monitor the movement of wild animals across state borders.

He also informed the House about the various steps initiated by the government to reduce the issues related to various man-animal conflicts in the district.

Also Read: Man killed in wild elephant attack in Kerala’s Wayanad, locals stage protest

Rahul Gandhi’s letter to CM

In his letter, Gandhi noted that Ajeesh was the sole breadwinner of his family.

Rahul Gandhi's letter to Pinarayi Vijayan.

“I am writing to you regarding the shocking demise of Shri Ajeesh Panachiyil from Payyampally. He was fatally attacked by an elephant. Another life has been tragically lost in Wayanad due to a wildlife attack. He was not only the sole breadwinner of his family but also the primary caregiver to his bedridden mother. My heart goes out to his family, especially his ailing mother and young children,” he wrote.

“The spate of wildlife attacks, especially elephant attacks, has caused tremendous damage to the lives and livelihoods of the people of Wayanad. The people in my constituency have paid a huge price due to the rising instances of human-animal conflict, and our communities, especially those residing adjacent to the forests, live in perpetual fear.”

“We have time and again raised the issue of human-wildlife conflict and sought your intervention to mitigate such attacks in Wayanad, particularly to protect our farmers. However, the lack of a comprehensive action plan to tackle this issue has only served to aggravate the conflict,” Gandhi pointed out.

‘Protect the people’

He urged the state government to protect the people in Wayanad by implementing effective response strategies.

“In this backdrop, I urge the state government to take decisive action to protect our communities and to put in place an efficient quick response mechanism for emergencies of this nature. I would also like to request the state government to enhance compensation for the families of the deceased,” he added.

Siddique alleged that the state government was the prime accused in the death of the 42-year-old man at Wayanad on Saturday.

He said the government machinery failed to prevent the tragedy despite getting information of the wild elephant roaming around the human habitat.

“The government is the prime accused. Despite getting information about the elephant, the government failed to warn the public,” Siddique charged.

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

Satheesan highlights goverment’s failure

Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly VD Satheesan alleged that the government failed to protect the life and property of the people in Wayanad which has been witnessing a rise in man-animal conflict.

He also visited the home of Ajeesh on Monday.

“In this case, we were unable to track the elephant. The Forest department lacks equipment to track the animals. The families dwelling near forest borders are living under constant threat. Their livelihood-farming is being affected,” Satheesan said.

The senior Congress leader said apart from the threat to life from wild elephants, tigers, wild bears and boars, these animals also affect the agriculture of the region.

“Many farmers are committing suicide due to the wildlife attack on agriculture. This issue is beyond politics, Satheesan said.

He also pointed out that compensation assured by the government for crop loss was yet to be distributed.

Opposition stages walkout

The opposition staged a walkout after Speaker AN Shamseer refused to allow notice for an adjournment motion.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today chaired a high-level meeting to discuss the constant man-animal conflict in Wayanad.

In a statement, the Chief Minister said all necessary steps to protect the life and property of the people will be taken.

“A panel comprising additional chief secretaries of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka will be formed to coordinate and resolve the issues connected with the inter-state movement of wildlife,” the release said.

The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said a Command Control Centre will be formed comprising members of Revenue, Police and Forest Department.

“Two new Rapid Response Teams (RRT) will start functioning at Wayanad soon. The warning systems will be strengthened along with the introduction of a public address system,” Vijayan said.

(With PTI inputs)