Forest dept lodges fir demanding thorough investigation; departmental panel constituted for inquiry

Siliguri, 14 November
The forest department today lodged an FIR with Nagrakata police station in the Dooars demanding thorough investigation into the death of five elephants and five others being injured after a speeding train hit the elephant herd near Jaldhaka Railway Bridge last evening.
Senior foresters interrogated the driver of the locomotive and received a written statement from him about the accident last late evening. Authorities have constituted a panel to begin a departmental inquiry into the incident.
Railway sources said a meeting between the railway officials and foresters held a meeting at Alipurduar late this evening and reviewed the present position of coordination of two departments and lapses behind the mishap.
According to a senior divisional forest officer, a pregnant elephant, three calves and another sub adult elephant were mowed down by the Guwahati-bound Kabiguru Express.
Another train-hit pregnant elephant was seriously injured and the foetus died inside. Though the forest officials started medical treatment, they are not sure about the fate of the elephant. Veterinary surgeons and forest workers are providing medicines and fodder to the injured pregnant elephant.
The veterinary hospital does not have infrastructure to remove the dead foetus so that the mother elephant can survive.
“The injured elephant will die after some days due to infection,” said a veterinary doctor.
The divisional forest officer, Mr Bidyut Biswas, who was on the spot just after the accident, said: “We are in no position to ferry the injured elephant. The wild animal was pregnant and unfortunately the fetus died. We have made a shed there to provide medical treatment. Forest staff are supplying medicines and fodder. We are worried about the fate of the elephant.”
Forest staff are in search of four other injured elephants in the forest based on the statement of driver.
The driver of the train, during interrogation, informed the foresters that there were 10-11 elephants on the track. Four elephants fled the area after the train hit the herd.
“I saw the elephant herd on the track all of a sudden as the train turned following a curve. I downed the brake and was trying hard to stop the train. But the train hit and ran more than 200 metres from the spot,” the driver confessed.
The train mowed down two elephants and dragged three ones.
In an initial report of the forest department, the Kabiguri Express was in high speed ignoring the dense forest zone where elephant herds are found frequently.
CPRO, Northeast Frontier Railway, Mr Sugata Lahiri said: “The forest department did not inform about elephant movement to alert the driver. A departmental inquiry may be initiated after a meeting between railway and forest officials.”
Forest officials initially informed authorities concerned that six elephants died because a jumbo was divided into two parts under the wheel just after the incident which took place around 5.40 p.m.
Animal lovers horrified over death of jumbos

Siliguri, 14 November
The animal lovers across north Bengal have sounded horrified over the deaths of at least five elephants ~ three calves, a sub-adult and a pregnant ~ under the wheels of a speeding train near the Jaldhaka Bridge in Dooars last evening.
The beasts were killed after the Assam-bound Jaipur-Kabiguru Express had hit a herd of around 40 jumbos while it was crossing the railway tracks near a bridge.
The toll of the elephants thus killed along the 168-km NJP-Alipurduar Junction railway tracks this year has risen to 17.
An animal lover and the secretary of the Jalapiguri-based Society for Nature Education Health Awareness (SNEHA), Mr Surjya Kamal Banik, said no solution is in sight for the beleaguered elephants from being mangled under the wheels of trains.
"Indifference on the part of the forest department is responsible. It is its duty to monitor the movement of the roaming herd in the elephant corridors, particularly along the railway tracks.
Such deaths were mourned, many tear-jerking articles appeared in the media, meetings were held between the forest department and the railways, rallies were taken out, yet the elephants could not be spared such terrible deaths. The deaths that occurred last evening are inconsolable,” he added.
Such deaths have become almost a regular occurrence since the railway track along the route cutting through the animals’ habitats was converted from meter gauge into broad gauge in 2004. According to the forest sources, at least 50 elephants were killed on the tracks since then.
In 2010, seven elephants died in a night at Moraghat. The incident sent shock waves across the country.
The State Wildlife Advisory Board member and the programme coordinator of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation ( HNAF), Mr Animesh Bose said ruckus is raised every time such death occurs. “Yet, it is going on unimpeded,” he said.
"We had staged a series of stirs, including rail rokos. We sought intervention from the former railway minister, Mr C P Joshi and the minister of state for railways, Mr  Adhir Chowdhury. But the outcome is zero.  The issue has assumed national proportions. It even found mention in the railway budget. What is needed is to divert the long-distance goods trains now running through several national parks and wildlife sanctuaries onto an alternative route, " Mr Bose said.
A writer from Siliguri, Mr Asesh Kumar Das said the slaughter of the jumbos by speeding trains might be a result of a consensus at the administrative levels to bring down the number of such elephants.
“Nothing can account for such protracted apathy from the power that be,” he added.
The forest department reiterated its proposal to the railways to strictly constrict the speed of the trains to 25 km an hour.
“We have already proposed to the railways to keep the speed at the lowest while the trains run through the animals’ habitats. An official inquiry would be conducted over the matter," said the principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF), wildlife, Mr N C Bahuguna, who visited the site today.