Bhubaneswar: Wild elephants have been wreaking havoc in several districts of Odisha over the past few months, trampling unsuspecting villagers to death and destroying their mud-walled houses and orchards with gay abandon.
Chaitanya Majhi, a 65-year-old villager in Nilagiri in the northern Balasore district, considers himself lucky for being alive after an attack by a wild elephant.
When he was out on a morning walk near his house in Sataranda village on Tuesday, a wild elephant emerged from among the trees and grabbed him in its trunk. The jumbo then lifted him high and threw him about five metres away.
The jumbo then rushed towards him to trample him, but Majhi managed to run away and hide. He was later rushed to a hospital in Nilagiri, where he is now being treated for injuries to his spine and legs.
A day before this, wild elephants trampled to death two persons in Mayurbhanj and Sambalpur districts.
Sandhya Sahu, 55, was chased by an elephant when she was out in the open to answer nature’s call near her house at Bindpur village in Sambalpur district early on Monday morning. The jumbo, which had arrived in the village from a nearby jungle the previous night, trampled her and fled. She died a few minutes later while being taken to a hospital.
The same morning, Haria Soren, 52, was trampled to death by a tusker at Dangarbila village in Mayurbhanj district.
The deaths have come as a massive shock for many in Odisha as Lord Jagannath, the state’s presiding deity, was enthralling millions of His devotees by donning the ‘Hathi Vesha’ (elephant attire) at His shrine in Puri after a grand ceremonial bath the same day.
Lord Jagannath’s ceremonial bath ritual was witnessed by millions of devotees at the temple and through live telecast.
Elephants that have attacked villagers in Mayurbhanj and Balasore districts are said to have reached these places in herds from Jharkhand, but forest officials are unconvinced. They say some of the incidents are caused by elephants who come from wildlife sanctuaries in the state.
The attacks by elephants have angered the locals and sparked protests in many places. Forest department officials have noted the deaths and damage caused by tuskers and recommended government aid to the victims’ families.
Officials said they were keeping a close watch on herds of elephants that have left their reserve forests. Villagers are also being asked to stay alert and not tease the pachyderms.