Kerala

Chillu the squirrel causes heartburn among farmers

The adoption of squirrel (Chillu the squirrel) as the mascot for the ambitious ‘Njangalum Krishiyilekku’ (We are also into farming) campaign by the Agriculture department to promote cultivation of safe-to-eat vegetables and fruits in every bit of space available in the State, including on terraces, appears to have caused heartburn among a section of farmers.

They see the squeaky little creature, which appears in most books for children, as a villain causing extensive damage to crops varying from cocoa and nutmeg to rambutan and coconut with mangosteen, papaya and others in between.

B. John Pedickattukunnel, a farmer in Muvattupuzha, says in a recent Facebook post that the squirrel, the ‘symbol of luck’ identified by the department for its campaign, is a major menace to the farming community, especially fruit farmers.

Laughing at the choice, he says it is good luck that the Agriculture department did not choose wild boar as the mascot for the campaign.

Agriculture Minister P. Prasad, though, appears to be a little taken aback by the allegations. He says the mascot has been chosen on the basis of the core content of the campaign to promote agriculture as a household activity as well as localised production of safe-to-eat vegetables and fruits.

What the department means by choosing the mascot is to emphasise the fact that every little bit of contribution counts in the larger interests of food production in the State, he told The Hindu.

He says a lot of animals and birds cause some harm to farming in their own ways. These include fowls and rabbits, wild boars and elephants and the common crow. The logo is meant to emphasise that everyone can contribute to the common cause in their own way.

Alex Ozhukayil, chairman of Kerala Independent Farmers’ Association, says Malabar giant squirrels and monkeys have been causing extensive damage to cocoa and coconut farming in the hilly areas in Kozhikode.

He says things have come to such a pass that farmers are forced to guard their crops from these attacks. “While we can see monkeys attacking the crop, squirrels are almost invisible,” he says.

Artist Deepak Mouthattil, who designed the logo, says he is surprised farmers have such a grouse against what appears to be an innocent little creature, even as an animated version of ‘Chillu’ is in the pipeline to promote the habit of farming among children. The artist says this is the first time he has come across such a complaint against squirrels.


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Printable version | Jun 24, 2022 9:41:30 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/chillu-the-squirrel-causes-heartburn-among-farmers/article65429750.ece