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Kerala man killed by wild elephant laid to rest, Church flays govt

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Wayanad (Kerala), Feb 11 (PTI) A 42-year-old man, who was trampled to death by a wild elephant on February 10, was laid to rest here on Sunday and the Kerala government has decided to constitute an inter-state coordination committee to monitor the movement of wild animals across state borders.

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Mananthavady Bishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Mar Jose Porunnedom, who led the last rite rituals, criticised the ruling dispensation and said the people prefer governance that prevents disasters and not the one which provides compensation after a disaster has happened.

Hundreds lined up to pay their last respects to Payyampally resident Aji who died at the Mananthavady medical college on Saturday. He was trampled to death by a wild elephant at Wayanad's Mananthavady.

"There is no point in giving compensation after lives are lost in tragic accidents. People prefer governance that prevents disasters rather than intervening after a disaster strikes. The people's representatives must raise this issue both in the Assembly and the Parliament," Porunnedom said.

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Criticising the authorities, the Bishop said the loss of lives is tragic when accidents occur due to negligence of government systems and officials concerned.

"The loss of the concerned families is irreparable when lives are lost in tragic accidents due to negligence, indifference and apathy on the part of government systems and officials concerned," the Bishop said.

Meanwhile, efforts to capture the elephant which attacked the man on Saturday were going on, Kannur CCF, K S Deepa told the media.

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She said the movement of the elephant was fast and it was not easy to track the jumbo on foot.

"It is not an easy task to dart the jumbo while tracking it on foot. There are chances that it will charge towards the officers. So we have to ensure safety and security for this operation. It's a dangerous mission. The weather is also foggy. We have an antenna and a receiver and are trying to track the elephant. We are also using a night drone to track it," she said.

Earlier in the day, the Kerala government decided to constitute an inter-state coordination committee to monitor the movement of wild animals across state borders.

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State Forest Minister A K Saseendran, after an evaluation meeting held here, told the media that Wayanad district, which has been witnessing a higher number of man-animal conflicts recently, will receive two more Rapid Response Teams (RRT) in addition to the one it has now.

"As far as we understand there was a delay in receiving information from the Karnataka department regarding the movement of the elephant. We don't have the facility to receive information from the chip installed by Karnataka or Tamil Nadu. Hence, we have decided to form an inter-state coordination committee to avoid such instances," Saseendran said.

To control the man-animal conflict, which includes the venturing of wild animals into human habitat, amendments need to be made to the concerned Forest Act, which only the union government can do, the minister pointed out.

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Meanwhile, BJP leader and Union Minister of State V Muraleedharan on Sunday sought the resignation of the state Forest Minister.

He alleged that despite the presence of a radio collar, the Kerala Forest Department failed to warn the people about the venturing of the wild elephant.

Muraleedharan also attacked Wayanad MP and senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and asked whether he was aware of the incidents in his constituency.

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The state government on Saturday announced Rs 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 destroys the compound wall and chases the man.

Locals alleged that the elephant had crossed the Kerala border from Karnataka and reached Kuruvadweep locality near here early in the morning, but the Forest department had failed to announce this and warn the people from venturing out. PTI RRT RRT KH

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