On most nights, 65-year-old G.M. Rajagopalan and farmers like him spend sleepless nights by the Palamaner Road running through Kottamitta village in Gudiyatham. They stand guard to chase wild elephant herds that descend from the nearby forest and destroy their crops.
This is not the case in this village alone. Farmers from 30 hamlets under village panchayats such as Modikuppam, Dhanamkondapalli, Mordhana and Sengundram have been facing the problem due to elephants. Cultivation of mango, bananas, and groundnuts is common in these villages. “Sleep deprivation is a major problem as we stand guard at night, but we somehow have to protect our crops. Elephants enter our fields in search of water. During the day time, we chase away monkeys, deer and wild boar that destroy our produce,” said Mr. Rajagopalan.
The farmers claim that repeated requests to the government to solve the issue have not yielded any results. “Hence, a few affluent farmers have installed solar powered electric fences by spending money from their pockets. However, the poor farmers continue to struggle and they continue to face losses. Many of them have sold their land and gone out of the villages,” he said.
One can find electric fences running alongside the Palamaner Road with warning symbols on them. Kamesh Deva, another farmer from Kottamitta village said that in the evening, the power is switched on. “The elephants which try to enter the field suffer a mild shock after coming in contact with the wire and they avoid entering the zone,” he added.
He claimed that a few people had died after elephants trampled on them.
Forest Department officials said there was a proposal to have solar ropes to prevent the entry of elephants. “We also have elephant proof trenches, but they are not maintained well due to lack of funds,” said an official.