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Valparai residents block roads following death of 3 workers

Special Correspondent
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Say menace caused by wild animals has been on the rise

Demanding action: Residents and TANTEA workers staging a road blockade in Valparai on Thursday in the wake of the incident in which three workers were gored to death by elephants on Wednesday.
Demanding action: Residents and TANTEA workers staging a road blockade in Valparai on Thursday in the wake of the incident in which three workers were gored to death by elephants on Wednesday.

Life in the hill station of Valparai came to a stand still from 9.30 a.m. on Thursday owing to the closure of shops and road blockade at a number of places following the death of three plantation workers who were trampled by wild elephants on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday evening, three plantation workers of TANTEA of Tamil Nadu Plantation Corporation namely J. Katheeja (57), S. Parameswari (52) and S. Chellathai (58) were trampled and gored to death by three elephants at TANTEA Range II near Periyakallar about 20 km from Valparai.

Immediately after the incident, the agitated workers refused to allow the police to remove the bodies for post-mortem and held the officials captive at the scene of occurrence in the plantation area despite chill weather. They demanded the presence of Collector and TANTEA Managing Director to sort out their problems before removing the bodies.

Finally after midnight, considering the movement of wild animals, the workers relented and the bodies were brought to Valparai GH for post-mortem.

On Thursday morning, demanding protection at work place and basic amenities, the TANTEA workers staged a flash protest by staging a road blockade at Stanmore – Vazhaithottam Junction on the Valparai – Pollachi Road. This road blockade triggered further blockades at New Bus Stand and near Gandhi Statue. Shop keepers downed shutters.

Arts College students and school students too joined the road blockade. The agitated Valparai residents pointed out that death caused by wild animals had been on the rise in the recent past. AIADMK MP representing Pollachi K. Sugumar also joined the road blockade.

The officials led by Field Director of Anaimalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) H. Basuvaraju, Deputy Director A. Thiagaraj, Revenue Divisional Officer of Pollachi – Azhagirisamy, Range Officer Xavier, Management Committee member of ATR V.P. Singaravelu held talks with the agitated TANTEA workers and Valparai residents at the taluk office from 10 a.m.

Even as the stalemate continued with no solution in sight, Managing Director of TANTEA R. Ganesan also joined the talks.

The officials pointed out to the workers that the three bereaved families could get a compensation of nearly Rs.5.5 lakh each from the Forest Department, TANTEA and insurance claim. The officials also assured to provide employment to one member from each family based on their educational qualification.

Mr. Ganesan assured to concede the demands such as street lights, better roads and improvements to the quarters of the plantation workers. Forest Department also assured to deploy two watchers in all the estate areas to monitor and prevent man-animal conflicts besides clearing the bushes and unwanted vegetations.

Initially, when Mr. Basuvaraju, as a special case, handed over the cheques for entire solatium money of Rs.1.5 lakh each to the bereaved family members, they refused to accept it and stalled the procedures for the post-mortem.

Finally, around 4 p.m., the workers relented and lifted the road blockades and shop keepers opened shutters restoring normal life.


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