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Elephant Deaths On Tracks: Ramesh To Take Up Matter With Rlys

New Delhi/Kolkata, Sept 24: Shocked at the killing of seven elephants after being hit by a speeding goods train in West Bengal, Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh is pressing the Railways to take concrete
PTI September 24, 2010 17:50 IST
PTI
New Delhi/Kolkata, Sept 24: Shocked at the killing of seven elephants after being hit by a speeding goods train in West Bengal, Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh is pressing the Railways to take concrete steps to avoid such unprecedented tragedies.

Ramesh, who is currently in New York, today said he plans to hold a meeting with the Railway Board on his return on September 26 for some concrete action to ensure safety of the pachydeerms and to prevent repeat of the Jalpaiguri mishap near Banerhat Station on Tuesday.

He has already expressed his unhappiness at the railways' poor track record in taking steps to ensure safe passage to the jumbos crossing the rail lines.

In Kolkata, West Bengal's Chief Wildlife Warden S B Mondol told PTI that a meeting between Railway Board officials and the forest department will be held in New Delhi on September 28.

Ramesh said the tragedy is all the more poignant in the wake of Environment Ministry's decision to declare the elephant as a national heritage animal, to take steps to establish a  national Conservation Authority and to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force to protect designated elephant corridors.

The death of seven jumbos in Jalpaiguri district in the state in one go is the worst such incident on a single rail track in the country. Incidentally, Jalpaiguri zone is designated as a jumbo corridor and steps such as slowing down of trains to provide safe crossing to the elephants is being suggested.

"This is not the first time that such a mishap has taken place, although the scale with which it has taken place now is unprecedented particularly in the North-East frontier," Ramesh said in a statement issued in New Delhi today.

Ramesh said in the past he had written several times to Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee as well to Railway Board officials and discussed measures to avoid such tragedies.

But the efforts seem to have fallen on deaf ears given that as many as 150 have died since 1987 on rain tracks as pointed by a report of the elephant task force which was set up by the Environment Ministry to suggest ways to protect the endangered pachyderms in the country.

Conservationists have termed the mishap as a murder, calling for strict action against railways. They said the incident reflected insensitivity on part of the government as a few precautionary measures by the railways in protected zones can save precious wildlife such as tigers and other animals besides jumbos.

Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), North Bengal Dr S Patel said that he would submit a report on the accident.

Describing the death of seven elephants as 'unprecedented and shocking', WWF (WB) Director Sashwati Sen said they were trying to meet the Railway minister.

"Unless the matter is taken up at the top level, no positive step will be taken to prevent such accidents. Our earlier appeals have fallen on deaf ears," she said.

 Sen said the WWF had earlier called for halting movement of night trains in the New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar section passing through wildlife sanctuaries and National Parks and restricting their speed. PTI