Alleged negligence of a train driver claimed the life of a an elephant in the Rajaji Tiger Reserve near Haridwar in Uttarakhand on Tuesday.

Officials of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve said a herd of 17 elephants was constantly moving on the railway track, and they were in the process of clearing the track. The forest staff had provided information to the railway department, and accordingly two trains had crossed the area in slow speed, avoiding any accident. However, the officials said, though they flashed torch and created sound, the Kathgodam Express driver failed to take note as a result of which the elephant was run over.

This is the 11 tusker to die on the railway tracks connecting Dehradun to Haridwar in the last 18 years. To avoid elephant deaths, the forest department and railway staff conduct meetings at regular intervals. Issues like information sharing and reducing the speed of trains always figure in the meeting but lack of coordination was once again exposed on Tuesday.

The movement of the elephants started near Kharkhari  in Haridwar on Monday evening. Roshan Lal Raturi and Kisen Lal, railway tracker of the forest department, were on duty. After they informed about the elephant movement to Motichur station, the Mussoorie Express and Nanda Devi Express crossed the point where the elephant herd was active in a slow speed. However, the third train was in speed and ignored the forest staff warning.

Sanatan Sonke, Director of Rajaji Tiger Reserve, said, “The forest staff tried to stop the train 1 km ahead of the spot, but the driver failed to take note. We have approached the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Moradabad and asked him to take action against the driver. He has assured us to seal the speed meter and institute a probe into the accident.”

The growing incident of elephant deaths demands a better coordination between forest and railway staff. Though the speed of train is fixed at 35 kmph in forest area, it is generally observed that accidents take place when the speed is high. A patch of about 20 km witnesses such accidents regularly.

The female elephant that died was 20 years old. It was buried near the site on Tuesday after a postmortem.