Odisha’s Forest Department blame Railway construction for death of 4 Elephants

While not ruling out presence of the railing and slabs, SER’s Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) Sanjay Ghosh said, “The accident occurred because the forest department on Monday did not alert the control centre at Bondamunda, as per earlier practices”. Meanwhile, the forest department has suspended four of its own employees for being unaware of Railway’s activities.
Four elephants, including a tusker, were killed after being run over by a speeding train at village Telidihi under Bagdihi forest range in Jharsuguda district in the wee hours

CHAKRADHARPUR/BHUBANESWAR: Four elephants, including a tusker, were killed after being run over by a speeding train at village Telidihi under Bagdihi forest range in Jharsuguda district in the wee hours on Monday last week. Sources said the elephants including two male and two female elephants were hit by the Howrah-Mumbai Mail while crossing the track. As per the forest officials, the elephants were from Bagdihi forest range under Jharsuguda Forest Division. Among the victims were a male elephant of about 15 years, another male elephant of five years, a female elephant of 25 years and a female calf of about one year.

Local villagers first spotted the elephants lying on the railway track and informed the forest officials who rushed to the spot and removed the bodies from the track. “Since it is an elephant corridor, we had asked the Railways to bring down the speed of trains in that area. However, we will look into the circumstances that led to the accident,” said Assistant Conservator of Forest, Jharsuguda Forest Division, Pradip Kumar Dhal.Jharsuguda Railway Station Manager TKN Naik said loco pilot of Howrah-Mumbai Mail MC Khrewal informed the guard P Maheswar about the incident. Maheswar reported the matter at Dhutura Railway Station.

The incident caused disruption in the movement of trains in the section that comes under South-Eastern Railway. Railway services normalised after the bodies were removed from the tracks. The bodies were buried after autopsy.Last year, three elephants including two calves, had lost their lives in two different incidents in the same area. While two elephant calves had died after falling into a trench, dug near the railway line for laying the cables, another elephant had died after coming in contact with 33 kv electric line while crossing the area at night.

Senior officials in Odisha’s Forest Department told that their investigation into the death of four elephants hit by the Mumbai-Howrah Mail Monday revealed that construction on the railway track was the trigger for the accident.

“The railway is constructing another track (at the accident site). To guard their work, engineers had put up a bamboo railing on one side, while the other side had construction slabs. The elephants walking on the track got trapped as the train came towards them,” a forest department investigator said.

“Elephants do not usually touch fences. So they did not break through the 4.5 feet barricades that ran for about a kilometre”, said the official, explaining why an FIR had to be filed against an assistant executive engineer of the South Eastern Railways (SER). Another FIR was filed against the loco pilots.

While not ruling out presence of the railing and slabs, SER’s Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) Sanjay Ghosh said, “The accident occurred because the forest department on Monday did not alert the control centre at Bondamunda, as per earlier practices”.

Meanwhile, the forest department has suspended four of its own employees for being unaware of SER’s activities.

Forest officials also conveyed their concern over the animal warning protocol, currently in place for the railways. “We have to issue a warning just 20 minutes before the animals are about to cross train tracks. The warning lasts for two hours and is effective for a two kilometre stretch. But, movement of elephants is not predictable,” said another official.

A man in Dhenkanal district was trampled to death by an elephant on Tuesday in the fifth such attack in the area in the last one month. The forest department is considering changes in the Odisha Wildlife Protection Rules (2006) by removing the requirement of a police report — on cause of death — to award compensation.

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