Two elephants mowed down by train in daylight in Bengal
Toll reaches 68 since 2004 in north Bengalkolkata Updated: Jul 06, 2018 17:20 IST
A female elephant and its calf were mowed down by a passenger train in Jalpaiguri district on Friday morning taking the number of elephants killed by speeding trains this year to four and the toll since the tracks were changed to broad gauge in 2004 to 68.
A herd of seven elephants were crossing the railway tracks between Red Bank Tea Estate and Deopara in Banarhat police station area when the Intercity Express that connects New Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar hit two of them killing the mother and a calf died on the spot. The rest of the herd crossed over to Dyna central forest after the incident.
The herd entered tea garden areas on Thursday night and were returning to the forest when the elephants were killed.
The last incident took place on June 8 when an elephant was killed by a train near Deopara in the same area. On February 4, an elephant was killed by a goods train inside Chapramari Wild Life Sanctuary in Jalpaiguri district.
The 168-km-long New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar railway track, that was converted to broad gauge from metre gauge in 2004, has turned out to be a graveyard for wild elephants with 68 of them being killed since the conversion took place. The tracks pass through a few national parks, wild life sanctuaries and reserved forests having numerous elephant corridors.
These accidents mainly take place during night. But Friday’s incident has triggered questions on how could it take place in daylight when there was no visibility problem.
State forest minister Binay Krishna Burman blamed the railways.
“We had been constantly holding meetings with the railway authorities on this issue. The state forest department has given full information to divisional railway managers in north and south Bengal about the tracks along which elephants generally move and requested the authorities to instruct engine drivers to be extremely cautious and slow down while crossing these tracks. But railways are paying no heed to repeated cautions,” said Burman.
“Friday’s accident took place because of the callousness of the engine driver,” alleged the minister.
Seema Chowdhury, honorary wild life warden, Jalpaiguri, said, “The accident happened at 7:30 am. We will file a police complaint against the railways.”
“We have formed an enquiry committee that will submit its report soon,” said Chandravir Raman, divisional railway manager, Alipurduar.
Quoting the driver of the train, Raman said, “He had applied the emergency brakes after the herd suddenly appeared on the tracks.”
“There was no speed restriction along the region at the time of accident,” Raman added. According to him, trains maintain a maximum speed of 30 km per hour from 5 pm to 5 am. But there is no restriction from 5 am to 5 pm.
Forest officials alleged the train’s speed was close to 100 km per hour when the accident took place.
According to Raman, the railways and the forest department have put in place a few measures to save the elephants. Railways and the forest officials meet regularly and exchange information in real time on elephants appearing on the tracks. They use Whatsapp for this purpose.
“We advised the railway authorities to construct under-passes and slopes in the elephant corridors but the railways have not done anything,” Burman had alleged earlier.
First Published: Jul 06, 2018 17:20 IST