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Monday, January 7, 2013

Railways inaction leaves foresters fuming

By Pinak Priya Bhattacharya, TNN | Jan 7, 2013, 03.02 AM IST Indian Railways beat Maharashtra3 elephants killed, 2 injured as train crashes into herdRailways pitches for 5-10 paise fare hike per kilometreMP Dinesh Trivedi seeks speedy trial of tainted leadersRailways to develop stations for more revenue JALPAIGURI: A day after three jumbos died when the Guwahati-bound Jhajha Express crashed into a herd near Madhugachh, the two injured elephants were rescued on Sunday morning and are undergoing treatment at Rajabhatkhawa. The accident left foresters fuming and they came down heavily on the railways for taking no measures to curb elephant deaths. According to officials, the forest department had written to the railways last month asking them to maintain a minimum speed while running through forest areas especially at night. The railways, say reports, refused to agree to the proposal on the grounds that train services would take a hit if it is implemented. "Instead, they insisted on increasing vigil along the 168-km-long railway track between Alipurduar Junction and New Jalpaiguri. Even if watch towers are set up every 500 meters, how will you monitor the space between the two towers during the night hours," questioned a senior forest official. "Had we had the mechanism to track elephant movement inside forests, would we allow herds to come near the railway tracks? It is not possible to know the movement of a wild herd. The only solution is stopping movement of trains on the railway track after darkness," said RP Saini, field director, Buxa Tiger Reserve. In September 2010, seven jumbos were mowed down by a goods train in Moraghat after which it was decided that regular weeding, up to 30 feet, would be done on both sides of the track to ensure clear visibility for the train drivers. "We have been doing that regularly. The spot where the incident happened on Saturday evening has a clear visibility. Then how did the driver overlook the herd crossing the track? The problem is that the railways never accepts its fault and always blames the forest department," a senior forester said. Several naturist organizations have time and again appealed to the railways to double the track that passes through Falakata in Jalpaiguri and runs parallel to the one that moves through Dooars. On Sunday, forest minister Hiten Burman visited the site of the accident. He said his department would write to the railways seeking answers on why jumbo deaths by trains had become a regular affair. But Burman's assurance has failed to please foresters and naturists. " Mamata Banerjee, Dinesh Trivedi and then Mukul Roy - all of them were railway ministers and could have taken up the matter of doubling the parallel railway track and stopping movement of trains on the Dooars track at night. But when in power, they did nothing despite making numerous appeals. Now what's the point in blaming the railways?" said Animesh Basu of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

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