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Fact-Check: How true is Maneka Gandhi’s claim about Elephant deaths in Kerala?

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Following the tragic death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, several celebrities & politicians made multiple claims about Kerala and states of elephants in Kerala. Former Union Minister & animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi in particular made a claim about elephant deaths in Kerala. Here is a fact-check of this and a few other claims.

Following the tragic death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, there has been a huge uproar on social media with even celebrities and politicians raising the issue and demanding strict action against the culprits. The incident first came to light through a forest officer’s post on Facebook, in which he had penned an emotional farewell to the pachyderm. According to his post, the elephant was found to have consumed some fruit like pineapple with firecrackers inside which exploded in its mouth, because of which it could not eat or drink anything. The elephant was standing in Velliyar river with its face and trunk submerged in water when the forest officers saw it. The post further states that the forest department tried to rescue the elephant and treat it, but the efforts were in vain.

Meanwhile, Maneka Gandhi, BJP MP, animal activist and former Union Minister, took to Twitter and made certain statements about the incident. Her statements have sparked outrage for being communal. Reportedly, the Malappuram police has filed a case against her under Section 153 of the Indian Penal Code, for ‘wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot’. There was intense scrutiny of her statements on social media. Here is a fact-check on some of her statements.

Claim 1 – Did the incident take place in Malappuram, Kerala?

Claim: The pregnant elephant was killed in Malappuram district in Kerala    

Fact: The incident took place in the neighbouring Palakkad district and not Malappuram district. Hence the claim is FALSE.

Maneka Gandhi criticized Malappuram in her tweet after the incident went viral on social media. She stated that ‘Mallapuram (Malappuram has been misspelled) is known for its intense criminal activity specially with regards to animals. No action has ever been taken against a single poacher or wildlife killer, so they keep doing it.’  

Even the Union Minister for Environment, Prakash Javadekar, tweeted that the Central Government has taken a serious note of the incident in ‘Mallapuram’, Kerala and serious efforts would be taken to ensure that proper investigation takes place and the culprits are nabbed.

In the tweet by Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan on 04 June 2020, it was stated that the incident took place in Palakkad district and not Malappuram as is alleged by both Maneka Gandhi & Prakash Javadekar. He added that both police and forest department, will investigate the incident.

The State Minister for Forests, K Raju had also clarified the same with ANI. Thus, the claim by Maneka Gandhi and Prakash Javadekar that the incident took place in Malappuram, is false.

Claim 2- Does Malappuram have the highest crime rate in the country?

Claim: Malappuram is the most disturbed district in India looking at the crime rate.  

Fact: NCRB’s 2018 Crimes in India data shows that Malappuram does not have the highest crime rate in the country. Therefore, the claim is FALSE.

Not only has she highlighted Malappuram to be known for intense criminal activity in her tweet, Maneka Gandhi also stated that Malappuram is the most disturbed district in India with respect to crimes, in an interview with ANI regarding the incident. She added that crimes against women and children were also high in Malappuram.

The National Crime Report Bureau’s Crimes in India report for 2018, for total of IPC crimes, SLL crimes, and Cyber-crimes across districts shows that Malappuram is at the 133rd position out of 857 districts/Commissionerates. In terms of crimes against children, Malappuram stands at the 50th position whereas in terms of crimes against women, the district ranks 647. From this, it is evident that Malappuram is not the most violent district in the country. The crime rate is not the highest here. Therefore, Maneka Gandhi’s claim about crime rate in Malappuram is false.

Claim 3- Are Communal Conflicts the highest in Malappuram?

Claim: Communal conflicts in Kerala is the highest in Malappuram.

Fact: NCRB’s 2018 data on communal/ religious riots under IPC Crimes reveals that Kasargod, not Malappuram has reported the highest number of communal riots. Hence, the claim is FALSE.

Maneka Gandhi claimed that communal conflicts were the highest in Malappuram district in Kerala. NCRB provides data on communal or religious riots in the Crimes in India report under IPC Crimes. The data for 2018 reveals that Kasargod recorded 4 cases of communal riots whereas Malappuram had recorded only one. Hence this claim is also false.   

Claim 4 – Are 600 elephants killed in Kerala every year?

Claim: Every year, around 600 elephants are killed in Kerala.

Fact: Data from Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha show that between 373 to 491 elephants died of unnatural causes in India in a span of five years. In Kerala, a total of 42 elephants were reported to have died during the same period, clearly indicating that the claim is FALSE.

While speaking to ANI, Maneka Gandhi claimed that every year, over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala. She also stated that, every three days, one elephant death is reported in Kerala. Logically, this means that, around 122 deaths are reported in a year, which itself contradicts her previous statement.

According to the Environment Ministry’s response in the Lok Sabha on 08 February 2019, between 2015 to 2019 (up to 31 December 2018), a total of 373 elephants have died due to unnatural causes such as accidents, electrocution, poaching, and poisoning. The maximum number of deaths (105) was reported in 2017-18.

Data presented in the Rajya Sabha by Minister for Environment, Babul Supriyo on 10 February 2020 shows that between 2015 and 2019, a total of 333 elephants have died due to electrocution, 77 in train accidents, 71 due to poaching and 29 due to poisoning. The data shows that a total of 510 elephants had died in India in the past five years. State wise data shows that Kerala accounted for the death of 42 elephants in the five years for which data is available. This is lower than the numbers reported by other states such as Assam, Karnataka, Odisha, and West Bengal.

Maneka Gandhi’s claim that over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala every year is, therefore, FALSE. 

Featured Image: Elephant deaths in Kerala

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