Siddapur (Kodagu): Reluctant to forego their daily wages, a group of six estate workers took a daring risk by driving away a herd of 27 wild elephants and two calves that had encroached upon Shilpi Estate, near Siddapura in Virajpet taluk.
On a Tuesday morning, estate workers Ganesh and Pavan, who had ventured into the coffee estate, spotted the herd of wild elephants and promptly alerted their colleagues. It has become a daily ritual for two workers to scout the estate for wild elephants before the rest of the workforce begins their day. Wild elephants from nearby forested areas often wander into coffee estates in search of sustenance and water.
Meanwhile, other estate workers, including Kusha, Kitty, and Bikash, who also noticed the elephants within the coffee estate, remained at a safe distance but were distressed at the prospect of losing a day’s wages. They made a courageous decision to confront the elephants and drive them away from the estate.
Armed with collected stones, which they bundled in a cloth tied around their waists, the workers climbed trees for safety. Once at a secure height, they began to shout and hurl stones in the direction of the elephants. Startled by the commotion, the elephants retreated and entered another coffee estate.
Determined to lead the elephants back into the forest, the estate workers descended from the trees and followed the elephants for approximately two kilometres to the neighbouring estate. There, they once again took to the trees and repeated their strategy to chase the elephants.
The loud screams and stone-throwing caused the elephants to panic, prompting all 27 elephants and two calves to retreat to the nearby Dubare Forest via the route through which they had entered the coffee estate.
Expressing their frustration, the estate workers criticised the Forest Department for their ineffective safety measures, such as installing railway barricades, solar fences and digging trenches to prevent wild elephants from entering human habitats, including coffee estates.
They pointed out that despite the formation of an Elephant Task Force, the response time was insufficient, as they were often occupied with driving elephants away from other estates.
Moreover, the workers complained that the railway barricades were ineffective because elephants could easily slip through the gaps between railings. They emphasised the need for permanent solutions to deter wild elephants from leaving the forests, as the ongoing menace had inconvenienced workers, coffee planters, students, and others.
Workers’ leader Ramesh urged the authorities to find a lasting resolution to the issue, warning of potential protests if action was not taken promptly.