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7 Jul 2018

Jumbo death rerun on tracks ....Train knocks down mother & calf in Dooars

The carcass of one of the elephants near the tracks in Banarhat on Friday.
Picture by Biplab Basak
TT, Jalpaiguri/ Alipurduar: An adult female elephant and its calf were mowed down by a train in the Dooars on Friday, barely a month after another jumbo had been run over on the route.

Friday's incident between Carron and Banarhat stations in Jalpaiguri has again raised questions whether information about elephant movements are regularly exchanged between foresters and railway officials.

Sixty-five elephants have died on the route since 2003 when the tracks, which connect Siliguri Junction with Alipurduar Junction and pass through reserve forests and tea estates, were converted from metre to broad gauge.

Around 7.45am on Friday, the Dhubri-bound train from NJP had just crossed the Diana river bridge when the passengers felt a jerk and the train stopped.

"A herd of six elephants came out of the Diana forest to cross the tracks near Redbank tea estate. Four elephants managed to move out of the way but the calf and the mother were hit. The train was running at high speed," said Suraj Sarki, a tea estate worker who witnessed the accident.

Local people protested the accident. Seema Chowdhury, an honourary wildlife warden of the forest department, joined the demonstrators.

Rail officials said there were no speed restrictions at the time.

"The train was running at 80kmph and even after the brakes are applied, it will stop only after 550m. The mother and the calf were within 150m," said a rail official.

Foresters contested the account. "We had alerted the railways to such (elephant) movements but unfortunately, no initiative was taken by the railways to restrict speed," said Ujjwal Ghosh, chief conservator of forests (wildlife, north). He added that a police complaint had been filed against the railways.

C.V. Raman, NFR's Alipurduar divisional manager, denied having received any information.

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