6-yr-old Nellore girl mauled to death by leopard in Tirumala

Sushmita along with her parents -- Dinesh Kumar and Sasikala -- who belong to Pothireddypalem of Kovuru in Nellore district -- left for Tirumala on foot for darshan of Lord Venkateswara. 
Parents and family members grieve after hearing that Rakshita was killed by a leopard at Tirumala. (Special arrangement)
Parents and family members grieve after hearing that Rakshita was killed by a leopard at Tirumala. (Special arrangement)

TIRUMALA:  A six-year-old girl was mauled to death by a leopard while she was trekking to Tirumala along the Alipiri footpath on Friday night with her parents. This is the first incident of death to be reported due to a leopard attack on the pedestrian route leading to Tirumala.

The deceased was identified as Lakshita from Pothireddypalem village in Kovvur mandal in Nellore district. According to the TTD authorities, Lakshita went missing around 6.30 pm on Friday while she along with her parents was trekking to Tirumala. When the family members were walking up to the temple, a leopard attacked them and dragged the girl into the forest.

The frantic efforts of the parents to find the girl in the dark went in vain. They lodged a complaint with the security staff at the police outpost in Mokali Mitta.  A public announcement was made in Tirumala with the hope that someone might trace the minor and bring her back to her parents.

TTD has announced Rs 10 lakh exgratia for the parents of the victim, Lakshita  
TTD has announced Rs 10 lakh exgratia for the parents of the victim, Lakshita  

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) vigilance and security wing officials, along with the forest department staff and local police, conducted search operations in the forest area early on Saturday morning. They found the girl’s half-eaten body near the 7th mile of the footpath to Tirumala. Later, Lakshita’s body was shifted to SVR Ruia Government General Hospital for postmortem. In the wake of the tragic incident, the TTD is contemplating shutting both the footpaths to Tirumala from Alipiri and Srinivasa Mangapuram at 2 pm and 3 pm respectively. 

500 CCTV cameras to be installed at Tirumala

Speaking to reporters, TTD EO AV Dharma Reddy said that 500 CCTV cameras would be installed from the point of Gali Gopuram to Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple and two cages would be kept ready around the clock. Dharma Reddy, who chaired a high-level meeting with the vigilance and security sleuths, forest and police officials, stated that a group of 100 pilgrims would be allowed along with a security guard on the vulnerable route.

“About 30 TTD security and 10 forest guards are deployed at this point and we will enhance the security further. We will initiate measures soon after the forest officials furnish the report,” he further said. TTD Chairman Bhumana Karunakar Reddy announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh to the victim’s family. While Rs 5 lakh would be compensated by the TTD, the remaining amount would be paid by the forest department.

After visiting the spot where the body was found, he asserted that there would be no compromise on the security of pilgrims in Tirumala. “The wildlife population has increased in Seshachalam
Forest and the safety of pilgrims are paramount for the TTD,” he told the media.

Meanwhile, a pall of gloom descended on Pothireddypalem as the body of the girl reached her native village. When Dinesh Kumar and Sasikala, the parents of Lakshita, found the upper body of their daughter mauled by the leopard, they were inconsolable.

“Lakshita went missing just 10 minutes after I bought her biscuits. We searched for her all night, but her mutilated body was found in the morning,” Dinesh said fighting back his tears. The shell-shocked mother remained inconsolable even as she questioned the TTD officials for not fencing the footpath when they were aware of wildlife movement.

It may be recalled that a five-year-old boy, Kaushik, had a miraculous escape after he was attacked by a leopard on the Alipiri footpath in June. While the boy suffered a minor injury, the leopard was captured and released into the forest two days after the incident. Recently, a sloth bear was also found crossing the path on CCTV footage.

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The New Indian Express