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Tusker death: Railways clean chit to train driver sparks war of words

The train tracks between Lalkuan and Kashipur, and Lalkuan and Rudrapur pass through Tanda forest —an important elephant corridor

dehradun Updated: Mar 13, 2018 22:30 IST
Abhinav Madhwal
Abhinav Madhwal
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Tusker death,elephant death,Killer tracks
An elephant on a railway track somewhere between Haridwar and Dehradun. (HT photo)

Two days after an elephant was killed allegedly after being hit by a speeding train in Lalkuan area of Nainital district, the Railways gave a clean chit to the locomotive driver, inviting a sharp reaction from the state forest department.

The incident took place in the Tanda forest division in the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday, officials said, adding the 10-year-old male elephant was killed at the spot. The train tracks between Lalkuan and Kashipur, and Lalkuan and Rudrapur pass through Tanda forest —an important elephant corridor.

The Railways Tuesday said that the locomotive driver was not at fault as there were no instructions for slowing down the train in the forest stretch.

Railways spokesperson Rajendra Singh said that the incident took place between 12:30 am and 2 am and the “driver cannot be said to be at fault in the low visibility conditions” of the night. “The Forest department has not put up any notices stating that it isan elephant corridor, nor have the bushes adjacent to the railway tracks been cleared,” he said.

“The supervisors conducted an investigation and found that the driver was not responsible for the incident in such circumstances. The issue of lowering the speed of the trains is taken by the top level functionaries in the Indian Railways and cannot be done at the local level,” he added.

Parag Madhuar Dhakate, the conservator of forest (western division), however, questioned the clean chit to the locomotive driver. “The railways have to work within the framework of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA). They are only looking at the technical aspect. There should be some empathy too for the lives of animals,” Dhakate said.

Terming it a serious issue, Dhakatae said they would hold a meeting with the railway officials to find a permanent solution to the issue. The meeting will be held at the forest department headquarters in Dehradun. “The issue of the train speed needs to be settled soon,” Dhakate said, adding two elephants had died near Haldi station in the same forest division last year.

This was the tenth elephant death after being hit by a train in the past 17 years. 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.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 22:30 IST