Upset over the death of seven jumbos on train tracks in West Bengal, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday said he would soon meet the Railway Board to press for concrete steps to ensure safety of elephants.
"The tragedy is all the more poignant in the wake of the Environment Ministry's decision to declare the elephant as our national heritage animal, to take steps to establish a National Conservation Authority and to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force to protect designated elephant corridors," he said.
The death of seven jumbos in Jalpaiguri district in the state is the worst such incident on a single rail track in the country. Incidentally, Jalpaiguri zone is designated as a jumbo corridor and calls for the railways to take special steps such as slowing down of trains to provide safe crossing to the elephants.
The seven were killed by the speeding goods train near Banerhat Station.
"This is not the first time that such a mishap has taken place, although the scale with which it has taken place now is unprecedented particularly in the North-East frontier," the Union Minister said while expressing unhappiness at the railways poor track record in taking steps to ensure safe passage to the jumbos crossing the rail lines.
Expressing shock over the tragedy, Ramesh, who is in New York for the Major Economic Forum (MEF), said in a statement issued here that in the past he had written several times to Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee as well to Railway Board officials and discussed measures to be taken in order to avoid such tragedies.
But the efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears given that as many as 150 have died since 1987 on rain tracks as pointed by a report of the elephant task force which was set up by the Environment Ministry to suggest ways to protect the endangered pachyderms in the country.
The task force, which had submitted its report to the Environment Minister recently while seeking national animal heritage status to the elephants, has also recommended measures to protect elephant corridors used by them to move from one forest track to another.
Conservationists have termed the mishap as a murder, calling for strict action against railways. They said the incident reflected insensitivity on part of the government as a few precautionary measures by the railways in protected zones can save precious wildlife such as tigers and other animals besides jumbos.
Ramesh plans to hold a meeting with the Railway Board for some concrete action to prevent repeat of the Jalpaiguri mishap on September 26 when he return from New York.