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Wild elephant kills auto driver in Kerala; govt provides Rs 10 lakh aid to victim’s family

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IDUKKI (KERALA), Feb 27: A 44 year-old man was killed on Monday night by a stray wild elephant near here, in yet another instance of man-animal conflict in Kerala.

The incident happened in Kannimala estate near the tourist town of Munnar in this hilly district. The victim was identified as Suresh Kumar alias Mani, an auto driver.

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The elephant also attacked and toppled the autorickshaw he was driving, but the passengers had a narrow escape, police added.

The state government handed over an immediate financial aid of Rs 10 lakh to the family of the deceased.

Kumar’s death comes in the wake of two persons being killed by wild elephants in Wayanad recently, sparking protests by local people.

The deceased Kumar hailed from Kannimala Top Division here, police said.

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Some other passengers including a woman and her school-going daughter had a narrow escape when the autorickshaw was attacked and toppled by the elephant, police said.

Kumar was on his way to drop a family comprising Rajeena, a local woman, her husband and daughter at their home after the annual day celebration at the girl’s school here.

Two migrant workers were also present in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

A shocked Rajeena later recounted that the elephant, which was standing on the road, attacked the autorickshaw and toppled it.

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She said they were trapped beneath the vehicle and the driver was attacked by the animal when he attempted to exit.

“The elephant took him by the trunk and tossed him three times. We were rescued by some persons who were passing by in a jeep. They helped us come out of the toppled vehicle after the elephant moved away,” she told the media from a hospital here on Tuesday.

A senior police officer said the critically injured man reportedly died before reaching a nearby hospital.

The other passengers, who suffered minor injuries in the incident, were recovering in hospital, he added.

Meanwhile, the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) called for a dawn-to-dusk hartal in KDH Village, comprising Munnar Town, seeking a permanent solution to the increasing human-animal conflict in the region. However it was withdrawn in the wake of Kumar’s family receiving financial aid.

The opposition Congress also announced a roadblock in the region raising the same demand.

Police said shops remained closed and the agitators stopped the vehicles in the region but no untoward incidents have been reported so far.

Meanwhile, authorities held an emergency meeting at a high-range hospital and handed over the financial aid to Kumar’s family comprising his wife and two children.

Besides Forest and district officials, the local MLA, MP and senior leaders of various political parties took part in the meeting, sources said.

CPI Idukki district assistant secretary P Palanivel said it was decided that the educational expenses of Kumar’s children would be borne by the government. It was also decided to recommend to the government to provide job to one of the family members in the Forest department, he said.

In the wake of wild elephants frequently venturing into the region, a decision was taken to deploy a Rapid Response Team (RRT), he said.

Forest authorities would also provide announcements in the morning every day about the movement of stray elephants if any in the area, he added.

Monday night’s incident follows the death of two persons in attacks by wild elephants in Wayanad recently, sparking protests by local people. Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, Union environment minister Bhupendar Yadav and Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi had met the families of the victims. (PTI)

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