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Massacre again 10 jumbos felled by train

                                                                                      The pioneer, New Delhi, 14th November, 2013
 
Ten elephants are feared killed after being mowed down by a speeding train in Jalpaiguri Forest Division of North Bengal on Wednesday around 5.38 PM. While the official figures are still awaited, the forest department has put the death toll at six, along with one seriously injured.

The Railways has, however, pegged the toll at three, based on the firsthand report of the guard of the ill-fated train. But independent sources claimed ten jumbos were killed.

According to Sumita Ghatak, DFO, Jalpaiguri Wildlife Division-2, the incident occurred between Chalsa and Nagrakata stations when Gauhati-bound Kabiguru Express from Jaipur rammed into the passing herd of wild elephants.

The incident took place within the forest area of Nagrakata range, she confirmed. Based on the preliminary information, she said, “At least six elephants, including a calf, have died on the spot.”

This killer track from Siliguri junction to Alipurdwar junction under the Northeast Frontier Railways has claimed the lives of more than 25 elephants since 2010.

The PRO NE Frontier Railway, Jayant Kumar Sarma, also confirmed the incident. Based on the information received from the guard, he said that bodies of two elephants were trapped in the wheels of the train.

He also confirmed the death of an elephant calf in the accident. As per official figures of the forest department, the stretch of about 168 kms of broad-gauge tracks passing through a number of prominent elephant corridors between Siliguri junction and Alipurdwar junction is considered vulnerable for jumbos. Prominent elephant corridors are Bhuttaban Forest-Chapramaari Wildlife Sanctuary-Gorumara National Park, Dumchi forest-Chunabhatti-Khairbaari-Jaldapaara, Buxa.

The NE Frontier Railway PRO said that as per decisions taken at hi-level meetings of forest department and railways, the speed of the train passing through these vulnerable stretches is to be lowered to 30 kmph.

He added these patches of forests are, however, not notified elephant reserves as yet. Further, as per the decision taken, the forest department is to intimate to the Railway control room staff when elephants are seen moving close to the track so that the driver can be alerted on time.

“However, in this case, there was no such intimation,” he said. The control room at Alipurdwar junction which is also supposed to have a forest department staff is 80-85 kms from the site of accident.

Sarma added that three ramps have been built recently for smooth passage of elephants. The officers from the forest department said they were rushing to the site.

With the rising number of incidents of death of animanl, particularly elephants, by speeding trains, the Ministry of Environment & Forest (MoEF) has identified vulnerable stretches of railway tracks across the country that pose a major threat to animal movement.

West Bengal and Odisha have the maximum stretches of railway tracks passing through vulnerable wildlife habitats, followed by Uttarakhand, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand also has a vulnerable rail stretch of 19 km passing through the forest ranges of Kansrao, Motichur and Haridwar Ranges.

Experts feel despite repeated deaths and identified stretches of sensitive tracks, there is yet to be any draft policy to tackle the situation. The elephants lost in such train hit cases are essentially from the wild, which move in herds through corridors from one forest to other in search of food and water. Hence, their deaths are a big loss in conservation, they regretted.