MYSORE/MADIKERI: When sitting MP and Congress candidate Adagooru H Vishwanath ventures out to campaign in areas bordering the vast swathes of forests in the district, he faces the same question everywhere: What will you do to counter the elephants that are straying out and destroying our farms? In places like Hanagodu (Hunsur taluk) bordering Nagarahole tiger reserve, farmers want a solution to the jumbo problem which is affecting their daily life. Election has come as an opportune time for the angry villagers to directly pose these questions to the netas who come canvassing for votes.
It is a serious issue, agrees Vishwanath. "The forest border areas have become a conflict zone given that the elephants are venturing out of the woods leading to loss of crop and sometimes lives. "The Centre extended funds to stop it by digging trenches. The Siddaramaiah government has budgeted Rs 250 crore to attend to the problem while the Centre has devised schemes to focus on it," the MP says.
According to Vishwanath, the top-heavy forest department has also added to the problem. "We need to have more ground-level staff. But the BJP government didn't focus on the problem much," he argues.
Politics apart, the issue has assumed serious proportions. In human habitats in rural parts of Mysore and Kodagu districts, elephant attacks have become almost commonplace. In Kodagu's Madikeri division alone, 610 cases of animals attack were reported in which three persons died while the estimated crop loss was put at 19.24 lakh during 2013-14.
In ten years since 2000, Kodagu Circle has reported 67 human deaths in elephant attack. The problem hit closer home when a herd of strays camped on the outskirts of Mysore city in December 2013, causing panic. "We need to understand why the jumbos are coming outside the forested areas," says wildlife activist H P Ashwin. "Productive areas inside the forest are shrinking with the invasion of weeds (lantana). The policymakers are merely focusing on what is happening outside the woods," he explains.
Cut to Mysore. The city is grappling with the drinking water crisis as the project to remodel drinking water network is woefully behind schedule. With the city accounting for over 40 per cent of 16.77 lakh voters in the constituency, there are infrastructure problems as well: upgradation of the Outer Ring Road that is two years behind schedule and expansion of the workable Mysore Airport that has hit airpocket.