SILIGURI: There seems to be no end of repeated tragic death of elephants in collision with trains in the NFR’s Alipurduar Division in West Bengal foothills areas covered with forest land. Seven more elephants died and many more got injured on a rail track after collision with an approaching train on Wednesday evening, thereby pulling up the death toll to 48 since last 2004.
The tragic incident took place at around 5:40 PM in the approach area of Jaldhaka River Bridge under Alipurduar Division of NF Railway when Assam bound Jaipur Kamakhya Kavi Guru Express (19709) rammed inside a hard of over 50 elephants those were crossing the track. The location comes under Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal.
According to the passengers onboard, while the train got stuck on the track at the place of occurrence, over 30 elephants of the hard kept the area practically under cordon.
“We have heard of the accident. All necessary actions are being taken. Special relief train has been sent and all Assam bound trains are being deviated through alternate route,” said Mr. B Lakra, Additional Divisional Railway Manager.
“It is a tragic incident. I am trying to visit the place tomorrow,” said West Bengal forest minister Mr. H. Barman.
As usual, the incident gave a fresh spark to the fury of environmentalists against the rail track. “The track has taken total 48 elephants lives in last 9 years since its conversion to broad gauge from meter gauge. That has significantly increased both frequency and speed of trains on it. We want immediate control of those on the track,” they demanded.
Nick named as ‘Killer Track,’ the 168 km track in West Bengal from New Jalpaiguri to Alipurduar traverses through deep forests including Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary or Buxa Tiger Reserve. WWF strongly opposed its conversion and dragged Railway to Kolkata high Court. The court finally allowed conversion, but after imposing several restrictions for the railway to follow to minimize elephant death on the track.
“Those restrictions, including maintaining safe speed inside deep forest patches were hardly followed. Several requests and reminders after every such incident could not yield any result,” complained Mrs. S. Sen, Director WWF West Bengal.
“Railway, being a huge authority compared to state forest departments and guarded by several legal immunities, always enjoy upper hand. State forest department, keeper of the wild lives, always remains in low key in front of Railway,” said West Bengal state forest department top brasses.