Nanda Devi Express mows down elephant in Rajaji reserve, second time in a month
A tusker died after being hit by Nanda Devi Express on February 17 this year. Prior to that, the same train had killed two more elephants, one each in 2013 and 2016.dehradun Updated: Mar 20, 2018 23:01 IST
The speeding Nanda Devi Express mowed down an adult female elephant in Kansro range of Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) Tuesday morning, the second such elephant death by the same train in the same area in just over a month.
The carcass of the elephant that was hit by the train, on way to Dehradun from New Delhi, around 4.45am was found near the railway track. Reserve officials said they will take legal action against the train driver.
The train departs from New Delhi at 11.50 pm and its scheduled arrival Dehradun is 5.40 am. During an hour’s stretch — between 4am and 5 am —the train passes through 18 km sensitive patch inside the reserve. As per the guidelines, trains are supposed to run at less than 30kmph inside the protected area.
“It is the fault of the driver who failed to control the speed of the train. I will knock the doors of the court as speeding trains is taking toll on wild animals,” said Sanatan Sonkar, director, RTR.
Of the 340 elephants that have died in 17 years in Uttarakhand after the state was carved out of Uttar Pradesh, 11 were killed after being hit by trains, with Nanda Devi Express being a major offender. A tusker died after being hit by Nanda Devi Express on February 17 this year. Prior to that, the same train had killed two more elephants, one each in 2013 and 2016.
Wildlife conservationist Bittu Sahgal had also written to Union ministry of railways on February 2, urging it to address the issue of rise in elephant deaths by speeding trains.
In the letter, supported by top conservationists of the country, it was highlighted that an average 80 elephants are killed by trains every year. Between 2009-10 and 2016-17, 655 elephant deaths were reported of which 120 were due to train collision. The letter also reported how on December 10 last year, six elephants including a pregnant female were mowed by a speeding train in Assam.
In addition, the letter also highlighted that 20 elephants were killed trains between 1987 and 2002 in Rajaji Tiger Reserve’s Kansro and Motichur areas.
After last month’s accident, the reserve management had filed an FIR against the driver. The Northern Railway Men’s Union had opposed the FIR alleging that the driver was being made a scapegoat in the forest department’s attempt “to shield its own employees” who failed to inform the Railways about the elephant movement in the area.
Also, the Railways didn’t initiate any action against the driver.
“Both forest and railway departments are at fault. They should come up with a proper plan otherwise the elephants will continue to die on the tracks,” Rajeev Mehta, a wildlife conservationist, said.
The reserve officials said it is difficult for the staff to divert the movement of the herd that has more than 40 elephants. The train, however, could be stopped to let the elephants pass.
“Shatabdi Express takes a lot of care while passing through the forest and brings down the speed. It is the Nanda Devi Express that never moves as per the specified speed limit,” Sonkar added.
Nitin Chaudhary, chief public relation officer, Northern Railways, said, “We are trying to adopt some technical solution wherein alarms at sensitive spots could help the driver in taking precautions. We are trying our best to avoid such incidents.”
Incidentally, the Railways gave a clean chit to a locomotive driver after an elephant was killed allegedly after being hit by a speeding train in Lalkuan area of Nainital district on March 11.
A tusker had died in February after being hit by a train inside the Rajaji Tiger Reserve and the Northern Railway Men’s Union had then opposed the forest department’s move to file a case against the train driver. The Union had alleged that the driver was being made a scapegoat in the forest department’s attempt “to shield its own employees” who failed to inform the Railways about the elephant movement in the area.