Wayanad farmers cut down plantain to save lives, other crops from raiding jumbos

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Wayanad: Alarmed by the raiding elephant herds, farmers living on the forest fringes of the district are cutting down plantain to save their other crops and lives. Visuals of Sherin Kurichiath, a native of Cheengode, Nadavayal, cutting down his plantain crop have gone viral on social media recently. Caught between wildlife invasion and a lethargic officials, farmers say they are forced to find alternative ways to safeguard their lives even if at the loss of crops.

The widely circulated visuals also triggered a protest among farmers against the forest department which they said have failed to find a solution to keep the elephant herds from farmlands.
Sherin told Onmanorama that though he was sad to cut down plantains, he chose his family’s life and other produce over the crop. “Every day the elephant herds wade into the farm and damage coffee plants in their bid to grab bananas,” said Sherin. He said the jumbos turn against them when they try to scare away the animals.

“For the past few years the number of elephants entering human habitats has increased manyfold,” Sherin said, adding that farmlands of more than a dozen farmers of the remote hamlets around Nadavayal have been raided so far by the herds.
“Elephants are intelligent animals and are capable of moving over all kinds of fences,” he said. “Losing a coconut tree or one or two plantains will not affect us, but when we are forced to cut down the crop in large numbers, that affects our morale,” he added.
“Our complaints fall on deaf ears. Forest officials would say that they are hapless as they are governed by the Indian Forest Act of 1927. When we complain to the Centre, we are told that the state has all the powers to take action. No one takes the initiative and the problem persists,” he said.
No entry for politicians
The farmers of Neykkuppa, another hamlet bordering the forest near Nadavayal, recently declared an ‘election boycott’ if the governments continue to ignore the people’s problems. They even put up a board banning politicians from entering the hamlet.
They said the panchayat too has not acted even though it has all the powers. Most farmers here have already destroyed the plantains in fear of elephants. They said authorities are yet to return the guns taken from them months ago.

Farmers’ Relief Forum president PM George told Onmanorama that the forest department and the people’s representatives are interested only in the funds from the Central government for animal conservation. “They are not bothered about the plight of hapless farmers,” he alleged. He added that the organisation is planning to seek legal remedies as farmers feel both Central and state governments won’t come to their help.



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