JALPAIGURI: A sub-adult female elephant was killed after being hit by the speeding Ranchi-bound Guwahati-Ranchi Express at the railway track that runs between New Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar Junction railway stations on Saturday evening. To protest against the death of the jumbo, other elephants of the herd blocked the track for more than an hour.
The incident occurred at around 7.05pm near Madarihat, on the outskirts of Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary, when a herd of elephants was crossing the railway track. The train hit the jumbo and dragged its body to nearly 250 meters before the cow catcher of the engine finally tossed it off the track.
Before the driver could recover from the shock of mowing down an elephant and move the train further, the remaining elephants of the herd, about seven to eight of them, blocked the track. The herd came on the rail lines and surrounded the carcass to mourn the death of their herd member. This resulted in the train getting stranded for more than an hour.
The ‘blockade’ was lifted only after foresters intervened and drove the herd back to the forest.
This incident, however, is not an unusual phenomenon. On an average, this 168km-long track kills five elephants every year and injures scores of other animals. Last year in September, seven elephants were mowed down in a single incident at Banerhat on this particular railway track. This year, so far, four elephants have been mowed down.
Various organizations have time and again requested the Railways to stop running trains on this track at night and shift them to the parallel track that passes through Jalpaiguri, Falakata. Railways have also been asked to double the line (that passes through Jalpaiguri and Falakata) to minimize traffic on the Dooars track.
But all appeals have fallen on deaf ears. Deaths of animals have failed to get any response from the authorities.
“The most tragic part of it is that persons at the helm of affairs are not really interested in sorting the problem out. The same incident is going on happening and yet the Railways are indifferent to the issue,” said Raja Raut, honorary wildlife warden.
When this track was being converted into broad gauge from meter gauge in 2002, nature lovers had protested against the move of the railway department.
Pinak Priya Bhattacharya, TNN