Several coffee estate labourers leave plantations fearing big cat
Ponnampet: The tiger that has caused the death of three human beings and more than 10 cattle heads has remained elusive. Though armed with capture-or-kill orders from the Government, the Department has not been successful in netting or shooting the tiger since Feb. 20, when the first human being — teenager Ayyappa — fell prey. The very next day, 60-year-old Chinni was killed.
After mauling eight-year-old Rangaswamy to death in Bellur last Monday morning, the tiger attacked his grandfather 52-year-old Kencha Shetty and his condition is critical but stable, according to doctors treating him at a private hospital in Mysuru.
More than 16 cattle heads have been killed by the tiger and the latest killing was reported last night at Beeruga. Angry that the tiger is still on the loose, residents of over nine villages including Shettigeri, Srimangala, Beeruga, Birunani, Bellur, Hysodlur and surrounding areas have decided to block the Mysuru-Gonikoppal road later today and lay siege to the Forest Department Office at Mathigodu Elephant Camp.
The road block decision came after two-days of overnight protests by residents demanding immediate killing of the feline. They camped at Bellur setting up camp fires near the Forest Department tiger-capture camps to mount pressure on the officers and staff. Today, the rally by residents and farmers’ leaders started from Srimangala at 10 am and converged at Ponnampet where protesters formed a human chain and shouted slogans against the Department.
Anger against Minister, MLAs
The protesters vented their ire against Forest Minister for not even holding a single meeting even after the loss of lives of people and cattle heads. The two MLAs from Kodagu too were their target and the protesters said that the MLAs have not been drawing the attention of the Government towards the issue.
After the human chain formation, hundreds of protesters headed towards Gonikoppal in many cars, jeeps and bikes and formed a human chain there too. Later they proceeded towards Mathigodu for the road block. The protest was on till we went to press.
Meanwhile, many families of estate workers who had come to South Kodagu to work in the plantations in this coffee season are returning to their native places. The family of Kencha Shetty and Rangaswamy too had come to Bellur from Nanjangud to work in an estate. While Rangaswamy lost his life, Kencha Shetty is battling for survival at Mysuru Hospital.
Like Kencha Shetty’s family, there are several other families that have come here for coffee work and many of them are returning due to the constant fear of being attacked by the big cat.
Rumours are rife that there are at least three tigers on the prowl in an area of 15 to 20 kilometres around the boundaries of Nagarahole National Park.
MLAs, MLC raise the issue
MLAs from Kodagu K.G. Bopaiah and M.P. Appachu Ranjan and MLC Veena Achaiah raised the issue of tiger killings in the Assembly and Council yesterday and urged the Government to permit coffee planters to shoot the tiger or coerce the Forest Department to shoot the big cat.
Replying to the elected representatives, Forest Minister Aravind Limbavali informed the House that he has issued a shoot-at-sight order against tiger. Though the legislators volunteered to lead the search and shoot operation, the Minister said that the Department was well-equipped to kill the tiger.
Congress leader and advocate in the Supreme Court Brijesh Kalappa said that the Forest Department officials should wake up before there is an outburst of people’s anger. “The Government should issue permission for the people in the region to use guns to protect themselves from wild animals, he said.