The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition walked out of the Kerala Legislative Assembly on February 12 (Monday) accusing the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of dismally failing to protect the life and property of nearly 50 lakh families, a majority of them settler farmers, living near forests in the State.
The wild elephant attack that claimed the life of an agriculture worker, Ajeesh, at Mananthavady in Wayanad on February 10 prompted Congress legislator T. Siddique to move an adjournment notice seeking the leave of the House to discuss the threat posed to human habitations by wild animals spilling out of forest reserves to farmlands and residential locations in search of prey and forage.
Mr. Siddique accused the government of failing to track the radio-collared elephant that caused Ajeesh’s death in real time.
He blamed forest officials for not taking pre-emptive action to insulate residential localities from potentially lethal wildlife intrusions in Wayanad.
Mr. Siddique said the District Magistrate and the Sub-collector failed to invoke the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) provisions to eliminate wild animals that pose an imminent danger to humans.
He said that out of the 909 persons killed in human-wildlife conflicts since 2019, at least 54 were from Wayanad district. Hundreds of people still bore scars from debilitating wild animal attacks, including pedestrians and families on two-wheelers.
Mr. Siddique said marauding wild elephants, foraging feral pigs, and monkeys ferreting about for food have caused crop losses estimated at ₹68 crores since 2019.
He alleged that the government’s assurances to employ the next of kin of those killed in wildlife attacks and compensate for crop loss have largely remained on paper.
Govt. doing little: Satheesan
Leader of the Opposition V.D. Satheesan slammed the government for doing little to mitigate the sufferings of lakhs of people living near forests.
“Nearly 30% of densely populated Kerala are forests. Children go to school in fear. Farmers risk their lives to collect fodder for livestock. Rubber tappers are reluctant to set out early to plantations. Tuber crop cultivation has reached a standstill in Kerala due to the menace of wild pigs. Wildlife threat posed an existential hazard to the State’s declining rural economy,” he said.
Forest Minister K. Saseendran said climate change, loss of habitat and changes in natural food habits have prompted wild animals to expand their range. He said the Centre and State governments have to work in tandem to settle on a sound strategy to prevent the unnatural dispersion.
Mr. Saseendran said signal blind spots, erratic transmissions from the radio collar and latency in sharing real-time information between Karnataka and Kerala forest officials handicapped efforts to track, tranquillise, capture and release the wild elephant responsible for the lethal attack on Ajeesh at Mananthavady.
Mr. Saseendran announced the constitution of a committee comprising Karnataka and Kerala forest officials to better respond to similar situations. He also revealed the creation of additional rapid response teams for Wayanad and a joint task force, including the police, forest and revenue officials, to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts in the hilly district.
Speaker A.N. Shamseer denied permission for the UDF’s adjournment motion.