Sixty-eight of the 75 polling booths on the borders of Sakleshpur forests are giving poll officers the jitters and have been categorised as hypersensitive - all due to the jumbo menace. Poll officers fear being posted in booths in the area for the May 5 Assembly polls due to the elephant trouble.
Sripad Kulkarni (name changed), a lecturer in a pre-university college in Hassan has heard several stories about encounters with rampaging elephants. He is so scared of the pachyderms that he has decided to opt out of poll duty in any remote area.
"If I am posted in any remote area, I will not go. I will feign illness. The locals in the area know how to tackle angry elephants, we are city dwellers. By the time we even react, we will be dead," he said. According to Deputy Conservator of Forests, Hassan, Lakshman, in the past one year three persons were trampled by elephants, two in Yaslur forest range in Sakleshpur taluk and one in Sakleshpur itself.
Now with Election Commission vigorously campaigning to increase voter percentage and penetrating deep into remote areas, elephant attacks are a cause of worry both for the poll officers and the voters. There are around 75 polling booths in the elephant infested zone comprising part of Alur, Arkalgud and Sakleshpur taluks, of which 68 have been categorised as hypersensitive but on a different yardstick---their vulnerability from elephant attacks.
Forest department staff will escort vehicles carrying poll staff to these 68 booths. Eight of these booths will be manned 24x7 for two days by the forest staff. Principal chief conservator of forests BK Sigh said, "Elephant watchers, foresters and other staff will keep a close watch to ensure that no elephant attacks take place."